Joint Euro-Japanese spacecraft got its first glimpse of Mercury as it passed through the solar system’s innermost planet while on a mission to put two probes into orbit in 2025
BERLIN – A joint Euro-Japanese spacecraft had its first glimpse of Mercury as it passed through the solar system’s innermost planet while on a mission to put two probes into orbit in 2025.
The BepiColombo mission carried out the first of six overflights over Mercury at 11:34 p.m. GMT (7:34 p.m. EST) on Friday, using the planet’s gravity to slow the spacecraft.
After flying over Mercury at altitudes below 200 kilometers (125 miles), the spacecraft took a low-resolution black-and-white photo with one of its surveillance cameras before taking off again.
The European Space Agency said the captured image shows features of the northern hemisphere and Mercury, including the 166-kilometer-wide (103-mile-wide) Lermontov Crater.
Five more flyovers are needed before BepiColombo is slowed down enough to free ESA’s Mercury Planetary Orbiter and JAXA’s Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter. The two probes will study the nucleus and processes of Mercury on its surface, as well as its magnetic sphere.
The mission is named after Italian scientist Giuseppe ‘Bepi’ Colombo, who helped develop the gravitational assist maneuver that NASA’s Mariner 10 first used when it flew to Mercury in 1974. .