Highlights from the days up to and including the exciting launch of the ESA-JAXA BepiColombo mission to Mercury.
BepiColombo launched at 01:45 GMT from Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. It will make a seven year cruise to Mercury, flying by Earth once, Venus twice and Mercury six times before entering orbit.
It is the first European mission to Mercury, the smallest and least explored planet in the inner Solar System, and the first to send two spacecraft to make complementary measurements of the planet and its dynamic environment at the same time. The mission comprises two science orbiters: ESA’s Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO) and JAXA’s Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO). The ESA-built Mercury Transfer Module (MTM) will carry the orbiters to Mercury using a combination of solar electric propulsion and gravity assist flybys.
More about BepiColombo: www.esa.int/bepicolombo