This past October 1 the BepiColombo mission finally reached its destination: Mercury. The spacecraft of the European Space Agency in collaboration with the Japanese JAXA has flown over the planet closest to the Sun, sending back a spectacular image of the mercurial surface.
BepiColombo made these past days a gravitational assist maneuver around Mercury, just as planned. The probe approached just kilometers from the planet, specifically its closest point was 199 kilometers from the surface of Mercury.
While still 1,500 miles from Mercury, he used his Mercury Transfer Module’s Monitoring Camera 2 to take a snapshot of the moment. A photograph of just 1024 x 1024 pixels and in black and white where we see part of the planet.
It stands out especially for being full of craters. The part of Mercury that we see in the photograph corresponds to your North Hemisphere. The area of Sihtu Planitia and the plains around the Rudaki crater and the Calvino crater, known as the Rudaki plains, stand out. On the other hand, the Lermontov crater stands out, one of the brightest that can be seen in the image and which has volatile elements.
The ship has made some more pictures of the planet taking advantage of their passage through it. This other photographs, like the first, have been taken with the monitoring cameras, so they are in black and white and of hardly any resolution. However, they allow us to see and get to know the planet better.
The BepiColombo Plan
Although BepiColombo has finally reached Mercury, it is not going to stay there yet. Due to the peculiarities of the space, it still cannot. This is the first flyby around Mercury and the fourth it has already done, He still has five gravitational assist flybys left before finally staying on Mercury. These maneuvers allow the mission to reach the planet with hardly any fuel consumption and taking advantage of the gravity of both Mercury and other planets.
The mission was launched in October 2018 and has since flown over Earth once and Venus twice. The next flybys will be around Mercury to adjust its orbit for December 2025. Once it does, it will deploy a total of two scientific orbiters in complementary orbits.
The first of the orbiters is ESA’s Mercury Planetary Orbiter. The second of these is the JAXA Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter. Both of them will study characteristics and particularities of Mercury such as its magnetic field, its geology, the volatile elements it contains or whether or not there is water.
Via | THIS