The European Space Agency (ESA) and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency have collaborated to launch a difficult and challenging interplanetary mission to the solar system’s innermost planet Mercury on October 19. Two missions, Mariner 10 in the year 1973 and Messenger in the year 2004 had been launched by space agency NASA to explore Mercury. However, this latest BepiColombo mission by ESA is different and unique as it will be using two orbiters, distanced 400 kilometres from Mercury, to explore the planet. BepiColombo will be trying to unfold the mysterious about Mercury, which remains unanswered by the two NASA missions.
After the European orbiter and the Japanese orbiter enter the circular and elliptical orbit of Mercury respectively, the two will carry out a detailed, comprehensive study on the surface, magnetosphere, magnetic field, as well as interior structure of the planet.
The Ariana 5 launch vehicle at the European spaceport will be launching BepiColombo on October 19. The explorer is expected to reach Mercury’s orbit in December 2025. During its journey, BepiColombo will be completing one pass-by of Earth, two pass-bys of Venus as well as seven pass-bys of Mercury. BepiColombo will be using gravity assists as well as solar electric propulsion from Earth, Venus and Mercury to enter the orbit.
The spacecraft, which weighs 4,100kg, comprises of 4 important components: ESA-developed Mercury Planetary Orbiter designed to study the internal structure and surface, the Japan-developed Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter to collect data about the planet’s magnetosphere, Mercury Transfer Module to provide solar electric propulsion to the planet and lastly the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter sun shield.
Upon reaching Mercury in the year 2025, the Mercury Planetary Orbiter and the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter will separate to observe and explore Mercury. Although the mission is one of the world’s most challenging one, it will help the researchers to explore Mercury extensively as both the orbiters of BepiColombo will be going very close to the planet to unravel the numerous unexplained Mercury mysteries.