Spacewatch: mission to Mercury braced for blast-off

Rodiano Bonacci
Ottobre 20, 2018

The European Space Agency's Mercury Planet Orbiter (MPO) and Japanese space agency Jaxa's Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO) will study Mercury for up to two years.

The planet takes only 88 Earth days to completely orbit the sun.

The Mercury mission will see a joint European-Japanese Ariane 5 rocket blast off into space in the early morning hours of Saturday, October 20.

The BepiColombo spacecraft will have to follow an elliptical path that involves a fly-by of Earth, two of Venus and six of Mercury itself so it can slow down before arriving at its destination in December 2025.

"It is the first Mercury mission to send two science orbiters to make complementary measurements of the planet's dynamic environment at the same time".

"(Mercury is) the planet that helped us prove that relativity is real, the planet that is astonishingly hot on its sun-side and yet carries ice in craters at its North Pole", Bill Nye, CEO of the Planetary Society, said in a statement.

Scientists hope the mission will tell them more about how the solar system was made and give them a better idea about the potential for life on exoplanets, which are planets found orbiting other stars.

The mission is primarily composed of two orbital craft, one each developed by ESA and JAXA.

The Mercury Planetary Orbiter will take a close look at Mercury's surface and composition while the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter will analyze its magnetosphere. Once it's there the BepiColombo scientists are hoping to solve many of Mercury's mysteries. "It is thanks to the worldwide collaboration and the decades of efforts and expertise of everyone involved in the design and building of this incredible machine, that we are now on our way to investigating planet Mercury's mysteries", an ESA statement quoted Worner as saying.

The mission will undertake a seven year cruise to Mercury, using a combination of solar electric propulsion and nine gravity assist flybys at Earth, Venus and Mercury. Nasa's Mariner 10 flew past the planet three times in 1974-75, and the American space agency's Messenger probe orbited Mercury from 2011 to 2015, taking photos of the surface.

But it's very unlikely that life will be found - temperatures on Mercury range from highs of 800 degrees Fahrenheit to lows of minus 290 degrees, according to NASA, making it nearly impossible that the planet could support life.

The new spacecraft will be carrying a different suite of instruments that should allow BepiColombo to confirm and build on the data collected by Messenger.

The Mercury Planetary Orbiter will also come equipped with a radiator created to reflect heat from the spacecraft, keeping it functioning even when close to the sun.

"After launch, and having escaped the "gravity well" of Earth, BepiColombo has to constantly brake against the gravitational pull of the sun".

Liftoff from the European Arianespace launch complex in Kourou, French Guiana, came off flawlessly at 10:45 p.m. (6:45 p.m. ET).

Altre relazioniGrafFiotech

Discuti questo articolo

Segui i nostri GIORNALE