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BepiColombo gets first glimpse of Mercury

BepiColombo gets first glimpse of Mercury

Source: Spaceflight Now
Date Published: 10/04/2021

The European-Japanese BepiColombo spacecraft swept past Mercury Friday in the first of six high-speed flybys to gradually set up the probe’s trajectory for a critical maneuver in 2025 to enter orbit around the solar system’s innermost planet. Since its launch on an Ariane 5 rocket in 2018, BepiColombo has completed a slingshot maneuver around Earth and two flybys of Venus to bend its orbit around the sun closer to Mercury. The encounter with Mercury Friday was the first time BepiColombo visited its ultimate destination, but scientists will have to wait four more years for a full examination of the scorchingly hot planet. BepiColombo zipped just 123 miles (199 kilometers) above Mercury’s airless surface at 7:34 p.m. EDT (2334 GMT) Friday, speeding by the planet barely seven weeks after flying by Venus, according to the European Space Agency. The flybys use each planet’s gravity to alter BepiColombo’s flight path, reducing the velocity change needed from the spacecraft’s propulsion system. The spacecraft’s high-speed sojourn through the inner solar system will continue with another flyby of Mercury

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