Scientists launch BepiColombo spacecraft to explore Mercury
Scientists launch BepiColombo spacecraft to explore Mercury
BepiColombo spacecraft set for mission to Mercury
24 October, 2018, 12:00
But on Friday, the European Space Agency (ESA) will blast two orbiters to heavily cratered Mercury, the planet closest to the sun.
An Ariane 5 lifts off from its launchpad in Kourou, at the European Space Center in French Guiana, on October 19, 2018.
Mission controllers based in Darmstadt, Germany, would spend much of Saturday talking to the spacecraft, to confirm they were properly configured for the long cruise ahead.
Europe and Japan are set to launch their joint mission to Mercury, the planet closest to the Sun.
"All great missions come with challenges: Airbus had to develop sophisticated thermal control solutions and even "special" solar arrays, capable of tilting 75 degrees away from the Sun to limit the temperature".
BepiColombo will fly by Earth in April 2020, twice around Venus in 2020 and 2021, and six times around Mercury between 2021 and 2025.
Overnight the European Space Agency launched its first mission to the planet.
An worldwide mission with a amusing name is set to blast off from South America on Friday night, bound for a little-explored spot in the inner solar system. The two orbiters would be carried by ESA-built Mercury Transfer Module (MTM) to Mercury using a combination of solar electric propulsion and gravity assist flybys. The tiniest planet in the solar system, Mercury is relatively unstudied and probably holds many mysteries.
While MPO will go into an approximately 400 x 1500 km mapping orbit around Mercury, MMO will enter a highly elliptical orbit to study the planet's enigmatically strong magnetic field.
A British-built spacecraft has blasted off to begin a seven year, 8.5 billion kilometre journey to Mercury, the planet closest to the sun. The diverse data gathered by the duo will paint a comprehensive picture of the rocky planet, shedding light on its composition, structure, magnetic field, formation and evolution, among other characteristics, mission officials have said.
BepiColombo will be just the third mission to visit Mercury.
"Mercury is extremely hot and it's an extremely hard place to get to because of the gravity of the sun", Justin Byrne, head of science at Airbus, which led the project to build the spacecraft, told the UK's Press Association.
It's estimated the costs borne by the European Space Agency and the Japanese space agency amount to about €1.65bn. Temperatures at Mercury range from extremely hot, up to 450°C, to extremely cold, down to -180°C. "JAXA has high expectations that the ensuing detailed observations on the surface and interior of Mercury will help us better understand the environment of the planet, and ultimately, the origin of the Solar System including that of Earth".
The Mercury Transfer Module (MTM), carrying the orbiters, was built in Stevenage in the United Kingdom by the Defence and Space division of aerospace company Airbus.
For a chance to see the BepiColombo mission launch live, watch the livestream here, in the embedded video player below. The mission is named after Italian mathematician and engineer Professor Giuseppe "Bepi" Colombo (1920-1984), who was instrumental in the success of the Mariner 10 mission that flew by Mercury three times in 1974-75.
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