JUL 07, 2017 12:41 AM PDT

BepiColombo: ESA's Upcoming Mission to Visit and Study Mercury

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

If you were to ask anyone what they knew about Mercury, chances are you would be met with some pretty generic responses, such as how it’s the closest planet to the Sun, how the planet is quite small, and how the planet's surface gets extremely hot.

On the other hand, the European Space Agency is planning a mission dubbed BepiColombo, which will help us learn more about Mercury by gathering some of the most advanced measurements regarding its internal and external structure, magnetic field, and atmosphere to date.

Meet BepiColombo, the ESA's stacked spacecraft that will soon visit Mercury to study it in detail.

Image Credit: European Space Agency

BepiColombo has already been assembled and is undergoing some final testing phases before its launch in 2018. The trip to Mercury will then take an additional seven years to complete before it will start gathering the data it was built to collect.

Related: Mercury is tectonically-active, just like the Earth

As you can probably tell from the illustration, BepiColombo is a bit “different” in design. It’s a ‘stacked’ spacecraft that’s carrying multiple orbiters owned by both Europe and Japan that will each serve their own purpose once they separate upon arrival at Mercury.

The mission will also be taking a closer look at the planet’s surface craters, which should be an easy task considering the orbiters will be very close to the toasty planet’s surface while they study it; the only challenge will be withstanding the heat.

The European Space Agency says they’ve outfitted BepiColombo with more than 50 layers of aluminum and ceramics that help insulate its delicate instruments from the radiation and energies it will be subjected to while in such close proximity to the Sun.

Outfitted with this insulation, the BepiColombo mission should last anywhere from one to two years before it goes into suicide mode and crashes into Mercury’s surface. There is, of course, a chance the mission could last longer, as the estimates were made conservatively.

Related: Is a great valley to blame for Mercury's internal shrinking?

There is a while to go yet, as additional stress testing is necessary to ensure that the spacecraft is indeed space-ready. While BepiColombo passed vibration tests with flying colors, it will now be subjected to vacuum chamber testing to ensure it can withstand the harsh environment of outer space. You can watch the vibration testing below:

It should be interesting to see what this mission finds out about Mercury, especially considering that we haven’t really visited this planet too many times before. NASA has been to Mercury previously, but BepiColombo will build off of our existing knowledge, benefiting all of humanity.

Source: ESA

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
APR 05, 2020
Microbiology
How Life Beneath the Sea Informs the Search for Life on Mars
APR 05, 2020
How Life Beneath the Sea Informs the Search for Life on Mars
Single-celled microbes that live beneath the floor of the ocean have provided insight into how scientists might be able ...
APR 06, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Here's How SpaceX Transports Rockets Across the Country
APR 06, 2020
Here's How SpaceX Transports Rockets Across the Country
Rocket launches are a common sight these days, especially given how commercial space companies like SpaceX are pioneerin ...
MAY 03, 2020
Space & Astronomy
These Contractors Will Develop Lunar Landers for NASA's Artemis Mission
MAY 03, 2020
These Contractors Will Develop Lunar Landers for NASA's Artemis Mission
NASA seems to be moving quickly to get the ball rolling for its lunar-centric initiative dubbed Artemis. The program aim ...
JUL 05, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Astronomers Spot Exposed Planetary Core for First Time
JUL 05, 2020
Astronomers Spot Exposed Planetary Core for First Time
For the first time, astronomers have spotted a planet with an exposed core. Known as TOI-849b, the finding could help us ...
JUL 23, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Was There a Magnetic Network of Cosmic Scale?
JUL 23, 2020
Was There a Magnetic Network of Cosmic Scale?
William Gilbert, the British physicist and physician who experimentally verified the magnetic nature of our planet, cont ...
JUL 30, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Indian Schoolgirls Discover Asteroid Moving Towards Earth
JUL 30, 2020
Indian Schoolgirls Discover Asteroid Moving Towards Earth
During a project sponsored by Space India and NASA, two schoolgirls aged 14 in the 10th grade discovered an asteroid nea ...
Loading Comments...