BepiColombo successfully launched

The European-Japanese space probe is now on its way to Mercury. It will reach the innermost planet in seven years.

ESA’s and JAXA’s space probe BepiColombo successfully embarked on its journey into space today. At 3.45 AM (CEST), the spacecraft took off from Kourou Space Center in French Guiana aboard an Ariane 5 rocket. After a seven-year journey and a total of nine flybys past Earth, Venus and Mercury, BepiColombo will swing into an orbit around the innermost planet in December 2025. The spacecraft carries four scientific instruments on board, to which the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) contributed.

BepiColombo is only the third mission to investigate Mercury from close up. Unlike its predecessors Mariner 10 and MESSENGER (both NASA missions), BepiColombo consists of two space probes: the Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO), which will study the planet itself, and the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO), that will orbit at a greater distance from mercury in order to explore the planet’s magnetosphere and exosphere.

The MPS contributed to the laser altimeter BELA, the X-ray spectrometer MIXS and the instrument package SERENA on board MPO as well as to the plasma particle experiment MPPE on board MMO. The researchers from Göttingen are hoping for an overall picture of the smallest planet in our solar system - from its inner structure to its surface and extremely thin atmosphere.

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