Arrow-right Camera

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Thursday, October 29, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Clear Day 58° Clear
News >  Nation/World

Space probe makes first Venus fly-by on way to Mercury

UPDATED: Thu., Oct. 15, 2020

This image provided on Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020 by the European Space Agency (ESA) taken by the Mercury Transfer Module’s Monitoring Camera 2, shows the closest approach to Venus. The medium-gain antenna of the Mercury Planetary Orbiter is visible at the top of the image, along with the magnetometer boom, which extends from the top right of the frame. A spacecraft bound for Mercury swung by Venus on Thursday, using Earth’s neighbor to adjust its course on the way to the solar system’s smallest and innermost planet. (European Space Agency)
This image provided on Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020 by the European Space Agency (ESA) taken by the Mercury Transfer Module’s Monitoring Camera 2, shows the closest approach to Venus. The medium-gain antenna of the Mercury Planetary Orbiter is visible at the top of the image, along with the magnetometer boom, which extends from the top right of the frame. A spacecraft bound for Mercury swung by Venus on Thursday, using Earth’s neighbor to adjust its course on the way to the solar system’s smallest and innermost planet. (European Space Agency)
Associated Press

BERLIN — A spacecraft bound for Mercury swung by Venus on Thursday, using Earth’s neighbor to adjust its course on the way to the solar system’s smallest and innermost planet.

Launched almost two years ago, the European-Japanese probe BepiColombo took a black-and-white snapshot of Venus from a distance of 17,000 kilometers 10,560 miles, with some of its own instruments in the frame.

The fly-by is the second of nine so-called planetary gravity assists that the spacecraft needs for its seven-year trip to Mercury. The first, around Earth, took place in April.

The European Space Agency has described the $1.5 billion mission as one of its most challenging yet. Mercury’s extreme temperatures, the intense gravity pull of the sun and blistering solar radiation make for hellish conditions.

BepiColombo will make one more fly-by of Venus and six of Mercury itself to slow down before its arrival in 2025. Once there, the spacecraft will split in two, releasing a European orbiter nicknamed Bepi that will swoop into Mercury’s inner orbit while Mio, built by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, gathers data from a greater distance.

Both probes are designed to cope with temperatures varying from 806 degrees Fahrenheit on the side facing the sun, and -292 F in Mercury’s shadow.

Researchers hope the BepiColombo mission will help them understand more about Mercury, which is only slightly larger than Earth’s moon and has a massive iron core.

The last spacecraft to visit Mercury was NASA’s Messenger probe, which ended its mission in 2015 after a four-year orbit. Before that, NASA’s Mariner 10 flew past the planet in the mid-1970s.

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter

Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.


New health insurance plans available Nov. 1 through Washington Healthplanfinder

 (Photo courtesy WAHBE)
Sponsored

Fall means the onset of the cold and flu season.