European probe to Mercury reaches Venus, first of two fly by’s...

The European mission to Mercury, BepiColombo, reached the planet Venus for the first time on Thursday morning at 5:58 AM. This is reported by the European space agency ESA. The probe flew past 10,720 kilometers. It is the first of two fly bys, where the probe uses Venus’s gravity to catapult itself towards Mercury.

During the fly by, some of BepiColombo’s instruments were already switched on to conduct research into the environment and atmosphere of Venus. ESA has attempted to take pictures of the planet using small cameras on board the probe. The large camera on the probe only turns on later.

BepiColombo performs fly bys to use the gravity of planets to get to Mercury. If the probe had launched directly towards the sun, it would be moving too fast due to the sun’s gravity. BepiColombo would then shoot past Mercury.

By catapulting itself with the gravity of Earth and Venus, combined with a thrust motor that runs on solar energy, the speed of BepiColombo can be controlled. This allows ESA to ensure that the probe arrives at the target planet in good order.

BepiColombo will reach Mercury in October 2021

In October 2018, the spacecraft was launched into orbit around the sun. In April of this year, the probe reached approximately 12,700 kilometers from Earth and used our planet’s gravity to bend its orbit toward the center of the solar system. This was the very first fly by from BepiColombo.

Thursday’s fly by is the second and the third will take place in August 2021, also around Venus. A month later, the first fly by around Mercury takes place.

When the probe arrives at Mercury, it will split into two vehicles, one of which was built by the Japanese space agency JAXA. The BepiColombo mission will, among other things, investigate the structure of the inner planet of the solar system. It will also look at how planets can generally form when they orbit close to a star.

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