It was only 200 kilometers between Friday’s BepiColombo spacecraft and Mercury’s surface. The ship took several pictures of the first planet in the solar system, but only one of them has been made available so far. More similar close-ups are planned in the coming years. By the end of 2025, the probe will be in orbit around the planet permanently.
The European-Japanese spacecraft BepiColombo first approached Mercury – the first planet in the Solar System.
The probe flew over the surface of the small planet at an altitude of only 200 kilometers on Friday, and then returned to deep space. Engineers working on the mission plan five more similar corridors. Every time they want to use Mercury’s gravitational force to slow the probe down.
The goal is to get “Baby” into orbit around the planet. It is scheduled to take place by the end of 2025. At this point, the probe will move 50 kilometers per second relative to the Sun.
BepiColombo probe. Mercury photos are present, although the main cameras are off
After approaching the surface of the planet, the probe took several pictures of Mercury, but not with a specially prepared high-resolution camera.
“Bepi” are basically two spacecraft in one. One part was developed by the European Space Agency (ESA) and the other by the Japan Space Agency (JAXA). The way these two components of flight were connected to Mercury obscures the apertures of the main cameras. This means that the first images of Mercury will be captured by several surveillance cameras or engineering cameras installed outside the ship.
A larger package with images from the first planet is expected to arrive on Saturday in the next few hours. Scientists hope to see some of the familiar elements in simple black and white photos.
“I think we’ll get to know the Kuiper crater,” speculates Dave Rothery, professor of planetary geology at the Open University in the UK. – We just have to wait. He added that we know what should be in the photo, but due to the lighting conditions and the small size of the cameras, there is some ambiguity.
The European Space Agency promised to publish all the images in the form of a short film. It is likely to be published on Monday.
BepiColombo probe. In a few years, it will orbit the planet Mercury
Although the probe won’t be in Mercury’s orbit until 2025, and parts of the two agencies will be separated, the ship is expected to continue downloading data and testing tools.
The next flights are scheduled for June 2023, September 2024, December 2024 and January 2025. In early 2025 and 2026, the probe will begin regular surveys of Mercury’s orbit.
Main image source: PAP / EPA / ESA / BEPICOLOMBO / MTM HANDOUT
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