European Space Agency Media Briefing on the Mercury BepiColombo Mission

European Space Agency Media Briefing on the Mercury BepiColombo Mission”

The joint project with the Japanese agency JAXA, which has cost more than 1.3 billion euros ($1.48 billion), involves some 33 companies from 12 European Union nations, as well as firms from the USA and Japan.

Understanding Mercury has so far been a hard process, since spaceships have to enter the planet's unusually thin atmosphere very slowly to avoid smashing into its surface upon arrival. With a surface temperature that ranges between a boiling 800 degrees and a frigid -290 degrees Fahrenheit, Mercury is and extremely interesting place to study.

Its proximity to the Sun also makes Mercury hard to study from Earth because the brightness impedes the view. Now, a spacecraft called BepiColombo is scheduled for a mission to uncover the truth.

Airbus said it has covered the European orbiter with specially-designed "high-temperature multi-layered insulation" which is "made up of 50 layers of ceramics and aluminium", while the antennae are "made of heat-resistant titanium, covered by a newly-developed coating".

"Mercury is the least explored of the rocky planets, but not because it is uninteresting", the BBC cited the ESA's director of science, Prof.

"We are flying into a pizza oven which is why we had to test materials at a very high and different temperature rates". The most accepted hypothesis relates to the planet's core cooling, drawing in the crust which fractured as the planet shrank, but the probe will hopefully provide advanced maps of the surface and its cracks and determine how fast the planet is shrinking and provide insight into how the process actually works.

The project carries the name of late Italian mathematician Giuseppe (Bepi) Colombo, who discovered that Mercury rotates around its axis three times for every two revolutions around the Sun and proposed the NASA trajectory that allowed Mariner 10 to fly by the planet.

Find out more about BepiColombo's mission to Mercury in the full version of this article, available now to our subscribers.

The unit explores the BepiColombo surface, the magnetic field and the nature of the craters on mercury.

BepiColombo is due to launch next year and will take seven years to arrive - but once it does the data it beams back could transform our understanding of Mercury.

"Arrival at Mercury is first foreseen ... on December 5, 2025", added Reininghaus.

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