BepiColombo project is the first space mission to Mercury to explore the planet with an aircraft that will be launched in October this year and will arrive in Mercury’s orbit in 2025. This is a joint mission of the European Space Agency, ESA, and the Japanese Space Exploration Agency, consisting of two orbiting modules that will perform a full Mercury exploration.
The BepiColombo is a 6.3-meter high with wings that extend up to 30 meters and it contains solar panels that will generate the electrical energy required for the mission. It also features a Structural Thermal Model and the ship is capable of withstanding temperatures ranging from 190 degrees below zero to 400 degrees Celsius which would be enough to melt lead or aluminum.
BepiColombo Mission to Mercury is the most expensive of all the ESA’s missions
Not only that this will be the most ambitious project conducted by ESA but it will also be the most expensive one, costing around 1.4 billion Euros (about $1.6 billion).
ESA scientist Mark McCaughrean explained that the goal of this mission is to get the orbiters as close as possible to Mercury and study the entire planet unlike the two missions of NASA, conducted in the 70s.
The first of the orbiters will be in charge of photographing and analyzing the planet, while the second orbiter will investigate the magnetosphere.
“More than 11 years of development and testing were necessary to achieve this masterpiece of technology. BepiColombo is the result of years of cooperation between 83 companies from 16 European countries and Japan,” said Matilde Royer Germain from the Earth Observation and Science department of Airbus.
The journey to Mercury will take 7 years
The surface temperature of Mercury can reach up to 430 degrees Celsius and the solar radiations are 10 times stronger than on Earth. This means that the equipment transporting the orbiters and the onboard 11 instruments must be kept at temperatures below 50 degrees Celsius.
The trip to Mercury will take seven years, as the ship will have to make flights around the Earth, Venus, and Mercury to slow down the spacecraft.
The first ESA BepiColombo mission to Mercury was named in the memory of Italian scientist Giusseppe “Bepi” Colombo, whose research on Mercury contributed to the NASA Mariner 10 mission which launched in 1973.