A new spacecraft directed to reach the planet Mercury will be passing through the skies of the planet tonight. This will be the first attempt of a flyby that will be exhibited by the vessel to the mysterious rocky orb of the solar system. The closest encounter to the planet will be conducted by the collaborative mission between the European Space Agency ESA and the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency JAXA called the BepiColombo. The exploration, if ever successful, will be the second astronomical project that will be sent to the tiniest planet of our solar system throughout the entire history.

ESA and JAXA's BepiColombo Mission

BepiColombo first Mercury flyby
(Photo: ESA/ATG medialab)

The BepiColombo spacecraft will be the closest observation to the planet Mercury humankind will achieve in astronomical studies. It will fly just 200 kilometers above the surface of the tiniest planet and will be the first probe assigned that has the shortest distance from the first planet in line on the solar system. As it goes through the planet, BepiColombo will have a chance to capture the imaging of the planet and is expected to transmit the complete observation and analysis back to Earth the following day. The images sent to Earth will be the second set of Mercury's closest view since NASA's mission on the planet back in 2015 called the Messenger.

The closest point to the planet Mercury that BepiColombo will reach today will be among the nine gravity-assist flybys of the probe. During this maneuver, the spacecraft will be utilizing the gravity of Mercury to receive the best trajectory around the planet itself, making a near-perfect propelling approach in orbit. However, BepiColombo was programmed to hover not on the orbit but to the nearest point just above the surface of the planet.

During the flyby, BepiColombo won't have the maximum ability to examine the planet in detail due to its instruments being in a configuration phase. However, ESA and JAXA orbiters aboard the mission called the Mercury Planetary Orbiter, and the Mercury Magnetosphere Orbiter will have a chance to be deployed nearer on the rock surface of the planet. The two orbiters will be launched separately on Mercury for a comprehensive study.

ALSO READ: NASA's Lucy Space Vessel Set to Obtain New Astronomical Records in Trojan Asteroid Investigation Near Jupiter

Mission to Mercury

The BepiColombo mission is expected to gather important details from the planet Mercury, including the measurements of the materials found on the surface and the formation of the planet's land. The spacecraft will have its black and white 'selfie cameras' to take shots of Mercury's environment through its 1024 x 1024 resolution lens. The same cameras initially took images of Earth and Venus during its first flybys and just right after its launch back in 2018.

BepiColombo expert and ESA specialist Johannes Benkhoff said in a Space report that the spacecraft is anticipated to have a better reading on Mercury than its initial attempts during flybys and will provide a detail through the planet's photographic images. Among the challenges BepiColombo will face is the extreme darkness of the planet's surface, which makes the spacecraft have the opposite problem when it took an overexposed image of Venus. Among the key interest of imaging are the hollows present on Mercury's surface.

RELATED ARTICLE: Hubble Space Telescope Releases Beautiful Set of Space Images; Includes Globular Cluster, Spiral Galaxies, and More

Check out more news and information on Space on Science Times.