Utah Skies: BepiColoumbo, a Mercury Mission

Oct 16, 2020

Credit By National Aeronautics and Space Administration

On October 20, 2018 BepiColumbo, a planetary mission to the Planet Mercury, was launched by the European Space Agency and the Japan Exploration Agency. It consists of three parts, the Mercury Planetary Orbiter, the Mercury Transfer Module and the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter that will separate into independent spacecraft upon arriving at Mercury. The transfer Module is an ion thruster that will give the spacecraft propulsion.

Earlier this year, about a year and a half after launch, BepiColumbo flew by Earth for a gravity assist maneuver to turn it toward the planet Venus. This week on Thursday October 15, 2020 it will pass by the planet Venus before heading toward a flyby of the planet Mercury. It will fly by Mercury five more times before it settles into an orbit around Mercury on December 5, 2025.

 

There are eleven instruments aboard BepiColumbo that will carry out scientific measurements during its mission. Some of the objectives of the mission include learning how Mercury was formed so near the Sun. The outside geography of the planet will also be studied, including its craters, the structure of Mercury’s interior, its magnetic field, and looking for water ice in its polar regions. Imagine finding water ice on a planet that reaches 800 degrees Fahrenheit on its day side!

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