Europe goes to Mercury
Named after a famous Italian mathematician who made a study of the best flight path to Mercury, BepiColombo will be one of the most complex space missions ever flown. Three modules will be launched towards the smallest planet in the Solar System - a European orbiter, a Japanese orbiter and a propulsion section that will carry the two spacecraft to Mercury.
ESA’s Mercury Planetary Orbiter will carry 11 instruments. From a polar orbit, these will map the planet’s surface, probe the nature of its interior, measure what its rocks are made of and study its thin atmosphere. The second spacecraft, Japan’s Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter, will carry five instruments to study the planet’s magnetic field.
BepiColombo will be the first mission to this mysterious planet to consist of a pair of orbiters. Launch is expected to take place in August 2013. After a long, roundabout voyage through the inner Solar System, BepiColombo will reach Mercury in 2019.
Last update: 15 September 2010