BepiColombo, ESA’s first mission to Mercury, is temporarily returning to Earth for its first planetary flyby on 10 April 2020.
Launched in October 2018, the spacecraft is on a seven year journey to the innermost planet in our Solar System. During this time, nine planetary flybys - one of Earth, two of Venus and six of Mercury - will reduce its speed and modify its trajectory.
The first flyby will see the Earth act as a brake to decelerate the spacecraft and fine tune its orbit towards the next scheduled flyby past Venus in October 2020. It will also give scientists the opportunity to calibrate the on board ultraviolet spectrometer, PHEBUS, and make measurements of the Earth’s environment using some of its instruments.
BepiColombo, a joint mission between ESA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency JAXA, contains two scientific orbiters: the European Mercury Planetary Orbiter and the Japanese Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter. It also contains a European transfer module and sunshade to cope with the high temperatures at the planet closest to our Sun. The spacecraft is scheduled to arrive in orbit around Mercury in December 2025.