Europe, Japan send spacecraft on 7-year journey to Mercury

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The opening element of that journey involves a ride on the Ariane 5 rocket.

The BepiColombo spacecraft is due to be launched from the European space port at Kourou in French Guiana, at around 2.45am tomorrow morning.

BepiColombo is scheduled to arrive at Mercury in December 2025 and begin its science mission in 2026.

The other two cameras are placed on the other side of the module: one will look down the extended solar array of the MTM, the other towards the MPO, capturing glimpses of the medium-gain antenna once deployed and, later, of the magnetometer boom.

A direct trajectory to Mercury would give BepiColombo too much speed to not succumb to the sun's gravity.

Compared to Mars, Venus, and Saturn, Mercury has barely been explored.

But that's still not enough to do the job.

The Mercury Transfer Module (MTM), carrying the orbiters, was built in Stevenage in the United Kingdom by the Defence and Space division of aerospace company Airbus.

BepiColombo spacecraft will take over seven years to reach the innermost planet of our solar system and will try to unravel the mysteries of Mercury unanswered by earlier two Nasa missions. The Mercury Planet Orbiter, built by ESA, will investigate planet's surface and interior composition.

"The cruise will be just above seven years", said ESA Project Manager Ulrich Reininghaus. We don't want that. The craft must constantly fight the Sun's gravitational pull to achieve orbital insertion around Mercury.

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"Mercury is a planet of extremes, and getting there requires some equally extreme techniques, navigation solutions and operations expertise", Paolo Ferri, head of Mission Operations at ESOC, said in a statement.

The planet takes only 88 Earth days to completely orbit the sun. The first spacecraft to visit Mercury was NASA's Mariner 10 that flew past the planet in the mid-1970s.

A key feature of BepiColombo is that it is the first interplanetary mission to employ advanced electric ion propulsion technology.

Scientists hope to build on the insights gained by NASA's Messenger probe, which ended its mission in 2015 after a four-year orbit of Mercury.

The ESA-developed Bepi will operate in Mercury's inner orbit, and JAXA's Mio will be in the outer orbit to gather data that would reveal the internal structure of the planet, its surface and geological evolution. That orbiter carries instruments that are primarily dedicated to the study of Mercury's magnetic field.

-Mercury has a higher overall density than any other terrestrial world. Why?

PARIS- Is Mercury's core liquid or solid, and why - on the smallest planet in our solar system - is it so big? -Is the planet tectonically active? The JAXA module will concentrate on the planet's magnetic field and its interaction with the Sun, the ESA module will focus on the planet itself. -Iron is presumably the major constituent of Mercury, but it is not seen in spectroscopic analysis. Why? One of the highlights of MESSENGER was confirming the presence of water ice in permanently shadowed craters at the poles.

Scientists speculate that this may have accumulated from comets crashing onto Mercury's surface.

The visitor, a spacecraft called BepiColombo, is set to launch as early as this weekend. Eastern, marking the beginning of a 9-billion kilometer trip to the closest planet to the Sun.

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