European and Japanese space agencies have successfully launched a spacecraft as part of a joint mission to investigate Mercury, the planet closest to the Sun.
The unmanned space probe "BepiColombo" launched on 20 October from French Guiana. It is named after the Italian scientist Giuseppe "Bepi" Colombo. The Ariane 5 rocket lifted her into orbit. The spacecraft carried two probes one from the European Space Agency (ESA) and the other from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)
The journey to Mercury will take seven years. Scientists hope that the mission will give them more information about the inner core of the planet and possibly answer questions about the formation of our solar system.
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The BepiColombo spacecraft must follow a elliptical route to Mercury. His journey involves a "flyby" of Earth and two of Venus. It will also make six flyovers of Mercury itself. This slows it down to its destination in December 2025.
As soon as it arrives, BepiColombo will release the two probes Bepi and Mio. The probes will independently investigate the surface and magnetic field of mercury. The probes are designed for extreme temperatures – from very hot to very cold. On the sun-facing side, the temperature is 430 degrees Celsius, but away from the sun it's minus 180 degrees Celsius.
The ESA Bepi probe will operate in Mercury's inner orbit. JAXA's Mio will be in outer orbit. Scientists hope that the data collected will provide information about the planet's internal structure, its surface, and its physical evolution.
Scientists build on the knowledge gained by NASA's Messenger spacecraft. It ended its mission in 2015 after a four-year orbit of Mercury. The only other spaceship to visit Mercury was NASA's Mariner 10, which flew past the planet in the mid-1970s.
Mercury is not much bigger than the Earth's Moon. It has a huge iron core of which little is known.
Guiseppe "Bepi" Colombo was an Italian professor, mathematician and engineer. Some call him the "grandfather of the fly-by" because his research helped in the exploration of Mercury, Saturn and Halley's comet.
It is the second recent collaboration between Europeans and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. JAXA's Hayabusa2 probe dropped a German-French spacecraft on the asteroid Ryugu earlier this month.
I'm Anne Ball.
Anne Ball has written this story for Learning English, according to an Associated Press report. Ashley Thompson was the publisher.
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words in this story
probe – n. A device used to obtain information from outer space and send it to Earth
solar – adj. or in relation to the sun
Kern – n. the central part of something
elliptical – adj. shaped like a flattened circle