On October 20, the BepiColombo spacecraft began its
The mission is a joint venture between ESA and the Japanese Agency for Aerospace Research (JAXA). The most important spacecraft, officially known as the Mercury Transfer Module, actually contains two orbiters.
The Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter is powered by JAXA and was designed to study the mercury magnetic field and its interactions with the Sun, while ESA's Mercury Planetary Orbiter will focus on producing highly detailed maps of the planet's surface.
Jan Wörner, ESA Director-General, says: "The launch of BepiColombo is a major milestone for ESA and JAXA, and there will be many great achievements 1
A challenging journey
It will not be easy to make the journey to Mercury and then go into orbit around the planet.
The first image taken by BepiColombo shows part of the two solar arrays
Andrea Acciazzo, ESA Flight Director for Spacecraft, says, "BepiColombo is one of the most complex interplanetary missions ever flew.
"One of the biggest challenges is the enormous gravity of the sun, which makes it difficult to place a spaceship in a stable orbit around Mercury." We have to constantly brake
In addition to the immense gravity that BepiColombo will have to deal with, it will also experience wildly changing temperatures.
Orbiters – along with the 16 scientific instruments they carry – must withstand temperatures that can vary between -180 ° C and over 450 ° C. The Mercury Planetary Orbiter has a cooler on board to handle it. Instead, the mercury-magnetosphere orbiter rotates 15 times per minute to distribute solar heat evenly over the entire surface of the aircraft.
Secrets of the Smallest Planet
BepiColombo is expected to reach Mercury in 2025.
Shortly before it reaches the planet, the Mercury Transfer Module is dropped, and the two smaller orbiters that are tied together are then captured by the planet's gravity. They will then enter safe orbit by using
Hopefully, from these orbits will reveal a lot of new information about the next planet to the Sun, including its internal structure, the evolution of its geological features (including the ice that exists in the craters of Mercury) and its interactions with the planet intense solar wind to which the planet is exposed.