JUL 07, 2017 12:41 AM PDT

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

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
JUL 02, 2018
Videos
JUL 02, 2018
Watch SpaceX's Dragon Cargo Ship Dock with the International Space Station
Just as expected, SpaceX’s Dragon cargo spaceship docked with the International Space Station on Monday to provide crew members with fresh food, supp...
JUL 10, 2018
Space & Astronomy
JUL 10, 2018
Listen to the Eerie Plasma Waves That Move From Saturn to Enceladus
When NASA’s Cassini spacecraft performed its grand finale before plunging into Saturn’s atmosphere, the spacecraft’s Radio Plasma Wave Sc...
JUL 23, 2018
Space & Astronomy
JUL 23, 2018
SpaceX Sees Another Successful 'Block 5' Falcon 9 Rocket Launch
Over the weekend, SpaceX launched yet another of its iconic Falcon 9 rockets from Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Image C...
JUL 23, 2018
Space & Astronomy
JUL 23, 2018
Earth is Pretty Small Compared to Everything Else in Space
To you and I, the Earth might seem like a large place. But in astronomical terms, our planet is actually quite small. Comparatively, the gas giant planets...
AUG 22, 2018
Space & Astronomy
AUG 22, 2018
NASA's InSight Spacecraft is Halfway to Mars, and Everything is Working
Just this week, NASA announced a significant milestone regarding the space agency’s InSight mission. The spacecraft, which launched from California&r...
AUG 29, 2018
Space & Astronomy
AUG 29, 2018
New Horizons Spacecraft Photographs its Next Flyby Target
Immediately following New Horizons’ historic Pluto fly-by in 2015, NASA began planning the spacecraft’s next fly-by mission. The space agency u...
Loading Comments...