Welcome to Space! BepiColombo Spacecraft Headed to Mercury Snap 1st Photo

Welcome to Space! BepiColombo Spacecraft Headed to Mercury Snap 1st Photo

Welcome to Space! BepiColombo Spacecraft Headed to Mercury Snap 1st Photo

Engineers worked throughout the day in ESOC's Main Control Room simulating BepiColombo's launch, maintaining data and voice contact with their counterparts at Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, and at the ground stations that will support BepiColombo's departure.

At 8:45 PM Friday night, the BepiColombo will lift-off from French Guiana on its long journey to Mercury.

It's in its first stage of a seven-year five billion mile journey to the closest planet to the Sun.

One of the biggest challenges for mission planners was ensuring the spacecraft could withstand searing temperatures of more than 350C so close to the sun.

The launch window for BepiColombo opened on 5 October and closes on 29 November 2018 - a window created to ensure the trajectory and multiple planetary flybys and gravity assists needed to eventually insert BepiColombo into the orbit of Mercury can be achieved via planetary alignments of Earth, Venus, and Mercury.

"One of the most challenging space mission in its history, Airbane 5 is created to bear Mercury's extreme temperatures, intense gravity pull of the sun and its blistering solar radiation", said European Space Agency (ESA).

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"Studying Mercury is crucial to better understand the formation of our solar system, how Earth formed and evolved and where we are coming from", said Benkhoff.

They will tour Mercury for a year before feeding their findings back to earth. This complicated trajectory is a effect of Mercury's high orbital speed and proximity to the sun; Mercury-bound spacecraft have to thread a needle to reach the planet and avoid getting sucked in by our star's powerful gravity.

Mercury is also the only rocky planet orbiting the sun other than our own to have a magnetic field. The approach to mercury will take more than seven years - until 2025 BepiColombo will reach " the innermost of the inner planets.

"We are standing on the shoulders of giants, and the giants are all of you!" said Guenther Hasinger, the ESA Director of Science, in acknowledging the participants in BepiColombo's development, its launch and the scientific mission to follow. What can the planet closest to the Sun tell us about how our solar system came into being?

"Each of our thrusters operates at 125 millinewtons, and one way to visualise that is that it's the same as the weight of a two-pound coin", said QintiQ's Peter Randall.

"What we know about Mercury doesn't really fit into our understanding of the solar system", he added. The mission of BepiColombo is simple, to figure out Mercury's history.

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It's estimated the costs borne by the European Space Agency and the Japanese space agency amount to about €1.65bn. I suspect that after it begins to orbit Mercury, it will inherit the name of BepiColombo or maybe just Bepi.

BepiColombo is the 51st mission (and 73rd spacecraft) launched by Arianespace for ESA.

They will be used not to accelerate the craft but to act as a brake against the sun's enormous gravity.

NASA's Mariner 10 took the first high-quality images of Mercury during its three flypasts in 1974 and 1975.

NASA's Messenger spacecraft, launched in 2004, reached orbit around Mercury in 2011 and spent four years studying the planet's surface and space environment with a suite of sophisticated instruments.

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