The first photo of BepiColombo, the European spacecraft finally on Mercury

BepiColombo near Mercury: the shot celebrates an Italian success. The result thanks also to the contribution of our country, which made 4 of 16 components.

The image shows the surface of Mercury but was made thanks to the contribution of Italy, Europe and Japan. The space shot in fact was made by the spacecraft at the center of the BepiColombo mission, in which the European Space Agency (ESA), the Japanese space agency (JAXA) and the Italian Space Agency (ASI) participate, along with the National Institute of Astrophysics (INAF) and La Sapienza University of Rome.

The shot of the probe made (also) by the Italian Space Agency

The probe arrived very close to the innermost planet of the Solar System and the closest Sun, Mercury. The minimum distance was 199 kilometers, but the photo was taken when the space between the spacecraft and the surface of Mercury was 2,428 kilometers. Thanks to a wider point of view, it is possible to observe that the area of the planet immortalized by BepiColombo is characterized by the presence of numerous craters.

When did the BepiColombo mission start and what are its objectives

The first shot, which certainly represents an important objective, among several assigned to the Euro-Japanese probe, and comes after the launch, dated October 20, 2018, of the spacecraft from a space center in French Guiana, in Kourou.

Before Mercury, the probe picked up a boost near Earth (April 2020), then traveled close to Venus (August of this year) and there picked up another boost strong enough to get close to Mercury. In 2025, the BepiColombo spacecraft is expected to be fully captured by the first planet's orbit from the Sun. On the occasion of the approach to Venus, BepiColombo was not alone: on the 9th and 10th of the same month, in fact, Venus was approached by BepiColombo and Solar Orbiter, of ESA and NASA

At that point, BepiColombo's probe will rotate around Mercury for about 2 years, sending back to Earth numerous images, which will be used by scientists to understand how the Planet's surface is made, how its magnetic field develops and how the interaction between Mercury and the solar wind develops.

The ASI, with INAF and La Sapienza, has made 4 of the 16 instruments on board the spacecraft of BepiColombo.

To better understand the long journey of the mission of ESA and JAXA, perhaps it is useful to repeat how many and which are the planets of the Solar System.

Giuseppe Giordano