Science Museum welcomes BepiColombo in new exhibition
An exciting new exhibition on ESA’s first spacecraft to explore Mercury, BepiColombo, was unveiled at the Science Museum in London on Wednesday 16 May.
The highlight of the exhibition is the full-sized engineering model of BepiColombo.
The BepiColombo Structural Thermal Model (STM) is on loan to the Science Museum from ESA, and was developed and built for ESA by Airbus, the mission’s prime industrial contractor. Airbus engineers prepared the model for display at the Science Museum.
Abigail MacKinnon, Assistant Curator, said: ‘We are thrilled to have the BepiColombo spacecraft on display at the Science Museum. This is such a unique opportunity for us; to be able to follow its journey from Earth to Mercury and watch the mission unfold in almost real time is hugely exciting.’
The model was used during spacecraft development to test BepiColombo’s resilience to vibration at launch and to extremes of temperature it will encounter on its seven-year journey. It was subjected to temperatures ranging from -190°C to 400°C, recreating the conditions the spacecraft will face when in shade and when in the illuminated face of Mercury.
The flight model of BepiColombo is now at Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, and will be launched later in 2018.
ESA’s Director of Science, Günther Hasinger, welcomed the new exhibition:
‘It is thrilling to know that the public can now also get a sense of the scale of this endeavour through this full-size, real-life exhibit at the Science Museum.
‘BepiColombo is definitely one of the most complex scientific missions developed by ESA, in cooperation with our Japanese partners, and we are all very excited to see it leave for Mercury soon.’
This is a unique opportunity for the public to get a close look at an integral part of a space mission’s development programme. Visitors will able to look inside the body of the spacecraft and see what brings the spacecraft to life.
Doug Millard, Deputy Keeper of Technology and Engineering, at the Science Museum said: ‘It’s hard getting to Mercury. You need to slow your spacecraft down so it can be captured by the planet’s gravity. You need to protect it from the intense heat of the Sun. Twelve hundred engineers and scientists from sixteen countries have worked out how to do it. The BepiColombo mission to Mercury is a testament to international collaboration at its very best.’
Europe's first mission to Mercury will set off later this year on a journey to the smallest and least-explored terrestrial planet in our Solar System. When it arrives at Mercury in late 2025, it will endure temperatures in excess of 350°C as it gathers data during its one-year nominal mission and a possible one-year extension. The mission comprises two spacecraft: the Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO) and the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO). BepiColombo is a joint mission between ESA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), executed under ESA leadership.