Click For Photo: https://techcrunch.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/BepiColombo_Earth_flyby.jpg?w=711
Humanity is about to return to the hottest planet in the solar system. BepiColombo is a mission to Mercury conducted jointly by the European and Japanese space agencies, due to launch from French Guiana at 6:45 PM Pacific time tonight aboard an Ariane 5 rocket. But while there’s just the one launch, there are two spacecraft.
The broadcast starts at 6:15; you can watch the launch at this link or the bottom of this post.
Time - Mercury - NASA - Messenger - Mission
The last time we visited Mercury wasn’t actually that long ago. NASA’s Messenger mission arrived there in 2011 and spent four years orbiting the planet and collecting data before impacting the surface at nearly 9,000 MPH (don’t worry, they planned that).
BepiColombo is a follow-up to Messenger in a way, but it’s very much it’s own thing. To start with, there’s the fact that it’s two spacecraft, not one. They’ll launch together and travel to the planet attached to each other and the Mercury Transfer Module, after which point they’ll separate into ESA’s Mercury Planetary Orbiter and JAXA’s Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (called MIO).
Spacecraft - Lot - Possibilities - Signal - Planet
Having two spacecraft opens up a lot of possibilities. One can emit a signal that bounces off the planet as is picked up by the other, for instance. Or one can watch the shady side of the planet while the other monitors the sunny (and extremely hot) side.
Speaking of heat, Mercury is of course the closest planet to the sun, so these spacecraft are going to be exposed to some serious radiation. The MPO will use a sun shield to keep the worst of the heat off, using a big radiator for the rest, and the MIO will spin as it travels along, doing a complete revolution every 4 seconds so that no one side is exposed to the sun for too long....
Wake Up To Breaking News!