The spacecraft is due to be launched into space from an Ariane 5 rocket at 2.45 tomorrow morning, and once it reaches Mercury two probes will be released into orbit around the solar system's smallest planet.
The rocket launch is scheduled to take place at 2.45am United Kingdom time (1.45am UTC) from French Guiana.
The BepiColombo spacecraft has blasted off on a journey to unravel the mysteries of the solar system's innermost planet.
Meanwhile, the planet's proximity to the sun with the extreme temperature between 180 degree Celsius to over 450 degree Celsius makes the spacecraft trip challenging, the ESA noted. It then swings by Venus twice, before making six flybys around Mercury between October 2021 and January 2025 before finally arriving in December that year.
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"Studying Mercury is crucial to better understand the formation of our solar system, how Earth formed and evolved and where we are coming from", said Benkhoff. The orbiter will also carry a magnetometer so that both it and Mio will be able to report magnetic conditions at two places simultaneously-an important first for a deep space mission that should teach us about the speed at which disturbances travel through the planet's magnetic field.It's exciting to think that BebiColombo may transform our knowledge of Mercury in just a few years. The image was one of the first sent back to Earth by the MESSENGER spacecraft. More than 30 years later, NASA launched Messenger, the first spacecraft to successfully orbit and map Mercury's surface.
Mercury is an odd terrestrial planet in many ways. The two will fly in the inner and outer orbit, respectively, and measure the magnetic field, and gather data about the planet's surface.
"(Mercury is) the planet that helped us prove that relativity is real, the planet that is astonishingly hot on its sun-side and yet carries ice in craters at its North Pole", Bill Nye, CEO of the Planetary Society, said in a statement.
The team involved: BepiColombo, made up of two different probes created by teams from Japan and the European Union, will launch from French Guiana.
Enlarge / It is no easy task to put a spacecraft into orbit around Mercury.
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Even if BepiColombo only partially fulfills its objectives, the knowledge that researchers gained in designing and launching the spacecraft will be applied to future missions.
"The global collaboration involved in this mission shows how our leading role in the European Space Agency is ensuring the UK thrives in the new space age, bringing real benefits to UK companies and scientists", said Dr Graham Turnock, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency.
The transport spacecraft will use an innovative type of solar electric-powered ion thruster system to adjust its course along the way.
"After launch, and having escaped the "gravity well" of Earth, BepiColombo has to constantly brake against the gravitational pull of the sun". The mission is named after Italian mathematician and engineer Professor Giuseppe "Bepi" Colombo (1920-1984), who was instrumental in the success of the Mariner 10 mission that flew by Mercury three times in 1974-75.
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