"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". Sure, it may be small, rocky, and lacking an atmosphere, but how it came to look the way it does absolutely baffles scientists.
It's the first time the European and Japanese space agencies (Esa and Jaxa) have set out for Mercury.
This is only the third mission to Mercury, following NASA's Mariner 10 in 1974-1975 and Messenger in 2011-2015. Finally, the spacecraft will reach the target - the orbit of the planet, and deploy the two instruments developed by ESA and JAXA: Bepi and Mio, plus other 14 instruments.
Mercury truly is mysterious. And imagine that the edge of the solar system is a lot further than the distance between Earth and Mercury. Or was it once a much larger planet that lost some of its surface to some large impact?More news: Samsung's new mixed reality headset with anti-screen door tech launches today
Magnetic fields are generated by a liquid core but given its size, Mercury's should have grown cold and solid by now, as did Mars. It has a single enormous tectonic plate. Mercury is also shrinking, but why?
- Despite having surface temperatures of more than 400C there are suggestions of water ice forming in dark polar craters that never see the sun. This maneuver, inspired by the orbital mechanic calculations of Giuseppe Colombo, used the sun's orbit and the gravity of another planet to alter the path and speed of a spacecraft. These days, scientists use the planet to test the limits of that theory. Even if BepiColombo only partially fulfills its objectives, the knowledge that researchers gained in designing and launching the spacecraft will be applied to future missions. The approach to mercury will take more than seven years - until 2025 BepiColombo will reach " the innermost of the inner planets.
"This wider array of instruments will enable us to not only make new discoveries, but also review Messenger's data", said Dominique Delcourt, a member of the team running instruments on the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter.
Once at Mercury, ESA's Mercury Planetary Orbiter will study the surface of the planet using a suite of 11 instruments.More news: Qualcomm announces new Snapdragon 675 processor that supports a triple camera
The new probe improves on several aspects of its predecessor MESSENGER, Sean Solomon, director of Columbia's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and MESSENGER principal investigator, told Gizmodo.
The duo, together known as BepiColombo, are bolted to one another for the seven-year cruise to their destination, and will separate once they arrive. Between 3.5 and four billion years ago, volcanic cracks opened in the crust and gushed lava, forming plains across six percent of the tiny hot planet, covering an area as big as 60 percent of the United States, said the study. The first spacecraft to visit Mercury was NASA's Mariner 10 that flew past the planet in the mid-1970s. This insulation will play a role in the European Space Agency's own upcoming Solar Orbiter.
Enlarge / Some of the main science themes for the BepiColombo mission. After all, it will not only increase our understanding of Mercury; it could also reveal secrets of the history of the Solar System and enhance our understanding of gravity.More news: Miami-area tourists killed in rafting accident in Costa Rica