Launch of Ariane 5 rocket with the mission to mercury

Gwen Vasquez
October 24, 2018

The mission is a joint project by the European Space Agency and Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency involving two separate orbiters that will build on the findings of the only two previous Mercury missions, both by NASA.

The rocket launch is scheduled to take place at 2.45am United Kingdom time (1.45am UTC) from French Guiana.

During its journey to Mercury, BepiColombo will make several braking manoeuvres to adjust its orbit, allowing it to make a slow approach towards the planet.

The spacecraft BepiColombo will take off today for a seven-year journey to the planet closest to our sun.

The spacecraft is specially created to withstand the sun's high temperatures, as well as its gravitational pull.

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.

The first mission to Mercury has been launched on 19 October, and the European and Japanese space agencies are happy to announce that everything is going according to plan.

Once BepiColombo, which is named after an Italian scientist, arrives in late 2025, it will release two probes that will independently investigate the surface and magnetic field of Mercury.

A third Mercury-bound module will deliver orbiters on a seven-year-long cruise to Mercury using a mix of gravity assists and solar propulsion.

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"Mercury is a planet of extremes, and getting there requires some equally extreme techniques, navigation solutions and operations expertise", says Paolo Ferri, Head of Mission Operations at ESOC. In the process, scientists hope to understand more about how the planet formed and evolved so close to the sun, which may unlock insights about other stars and planets.

ESA's Mercury Planetary Orbiter carries 11 instruments, including cameras, spectrometers, a radiometer, laser altimeter, magnetometer and others will focus on the planet's surface and internal composition.

A seven-year, eight-million-kilometer voyage expected to shed light on the mysteries of Mercury, the solar system's least-understood planet, is almost ready for takeoff.

The scientists will be able to study the impact of these winds - 10 times stronger than the ones hitting Earth's atmosphere - on Mercury's magnetic field.

During the buildup to tonight's launch, ESA Director General Jan Wörner said the appeal of Mercury and the BepiColombo mission isn't strictly scientific.

The visitor, a spacecraft called BepiColombo, is set to launch as early as this weekend. All those close encounters are carefully created to slow down BepiColombo's speed enough to put it into a stable orbit around Mercury in 2025.

"The nearer you get to the sun, the less dense the planets are - except Mercury".

They will be used not to accelerate the craft but to act as a brake against the sun's enormous gravity. Mercury is the least explored of the four rocky inner planets, having received visits only from NASA missions Mariner 10, from 1974 to 1975, and Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry and Ranging (MESSENGER), from 2008 to 2015. What can the planet closest to the Sun tell us about how our solar system came into being?

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