BepiColombo Spacecraft Beams Back Mercury Images

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Earth has just received a glimpse of a speeding spacecraft, headed to explore Mercury. The Mercury-bound spacecraft, namely the BepiColombo spacecraft jointly developed by Europe and Japan, made a close approach over the South Atlantic. It was captured with telescopes in Chile when it was within 12,700 km Earth.

Spacecraft Heading To Mercury Beams Back Images

 

The spacecraft was launched nearly one-and-a-half years ago with a mission to explore and understand the smallest and innermost planet in our Solar System. The BepiColombo spacecraft is on a seven-year journey and is scheduled to reach Mercury in 2025. The entire journey comprises of flying past Venus twice and nearly six times past Mercury itself.

"These selfies from space are humbling, showing our planet, the common home that we share, in one of the most troubling and uncertain periods many of us have gone through," Gunther Hasinger, the European Space Agency's science director said while posting the images on the official Twitter handle.

The idea behind the mission is to gather more data and information about the origin of Mercury. In fact, Mercury is one of the least explored planets in our Solar System. So far, we know that the planet is just a tad bit bigger than our Moon has a solar rotation of just 88 days. Also, the spacecraft is named after Italian mathematician and engineer Giuseppe "Bepi" Colombo, who devised the use of planetary flybys for Mercury encounters.

 

The spacecraft itself is equipped with three GoPro-type cameras, which sent back black-and-white pictures of the Earth, before leaving the vicinity. The spacecraft's control center, situated in Germany, had fewer operators due to the coronavirus pandemic. This is why the controllers also maintained social distance while monitoring the flyby.

The gravity tug from Earth slowed the spacecraft and also put in a course closer to the Sun. The next flyby is expected to be at Venus in October. The data will be used to evaluate the BepiColombo spacecraft's equipment.

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