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Joint European-Japanese spacecraft took first photos of Mercury

Cropped version of the first image of Mercury taken by the BepiColombo mission on October 1, 2021.

The space mission, launched jointly by the European and Japanese space agencies, allowed the planet Mercury to be viewed up close for the first time.

A pair of linked orbiters, known collectively as BepiColombo, are photographed. several Photo October 1, during the long-awaited flyby of the innermost planet of our solar system. The images show Mercury’s northern hemisphere and dozens of craters dotting its surface, including one that has been the site of several volcanic explosions, according to the statement. European Space Agency… The image also shows the spacecraft antennas and magnetometer boom.

ESA and the Japan Space Research Agency launched BepiColombo in 2018 to take pictures of Mercury to learn more about its origin and evolution. Only two probes have ever visited the planet: Mariner 10, which flew in 1974 and 1975, and MESSENGER, which orbited Mercury from 2011 to 2015.

This week’s flyby was marked by BepiColombo’s first of six around Mercury. The space probes have passed within 124 miles (199 km) of the planet’s surface.

“The flyover was flawless from a spacecraft perspective, and it’s incredible to finally see our target planet,” said Elsa Montagnon, spacecraft operations manager. ESA press release

“It was very interesting to see the first images of Mercury by BepiColombo and to understand what we see,” added David Rothery, head of the ESA Working Group on the Surface and Composition of Mercury. “This made me even more enthusiastic to explore the high quality scientific data that we need to get when in orbit around Mercury, because it is a planet that we do not fully understand yet.”

The next flyby of Mercury is scheduled for June next year, followed by four more in June 2023, September 2024, December 2024 and January 2025. If all goes according to plan, BepiColombo will slow enough to enter Mercury’s orbit. end of 2025… The two orbiters will then begin their main scientific mission: to map the surface of Mercury to study surface processes, composition and magnetic field.

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