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A British-built spacecraft is set to begin an epic five billion mile journey to planet Mercury tomorrow.
BepiColombo is due to be launched from the European space port at Kourou, French Guiana, at 02:45 UK time (21:45 ET) on Saturday October 20.
Space - Agency - ESA - Spacecraft - Years
The European Space Agency (ESA) spacecraft will take seven years to reach the planet closest to the sun.
In 2025 it will place two probes, one European and the other Japanese, in orbit around Mercury, the least explored world in the solar system.
Mercury - Transfer - Module - MTM - Orbiters
The Mercury Transfer Module (MTM), carrying the orbiters, was built in Stevenage by the Defence and Space division of aerospace company Airbus.
Key elements of ESAs Mercury Planet Orbiter we're also assembled by Airbus in the UK.
Scientists - £1 - Mission - Mercury - Mysteries
Scientists hope the £1.4 billion ($1.8bn) mission will unravel some of Mercury's mysteries, such as the reason for its oversized iron core, its spectacular volcanic vents, and tantalising hints of water ice in shadowy parts of the scorching hot planet.
The answers they get will shed new light on the origins and evolution of the solar system.
Earth - Life - Earth - Planets - System
'If we want to understand our Earth and how life can [begin] on Earth and maybe on other planets we have to understand our solar system', Joe Zender, deputy project scientist for BepiColombo told the Guardian.
For all its bland 'dead' appearance, Mercury is a very interesting place and has baffled scientists for decades.
Iron - Core - Planet - Diameter
It has a solid iron core that measures more than half the planet's diameter.
Earth, by contrast, has a solid core that's just 9.5 per cent of its overall girth.
Sunward - Half - Planet - Sizzles - Temperature
On its sunward half, the planet sizzles at a temperature of 510°C (950°F while its night side maintains –210°C (–346°F).
A key feature of BepiColombo is that it is the first interplanetary mission to employ advanced electric ion propulsion technology.
Star - Trek-style - 'impulse - Engines - Firing
Four Star Trek-style 'impulse engines', two firing at a time,...
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