ESA’s mission to Mercury will tentatively launch on 21 July 2016, to reach Mercury’s orbit seven and a half years later, in 2024 and the spacecraft is called BepiColombo-in honor of Italian space pioneer Giuseppe “Bepi” Colombo, CNN reported.
Johannes Benkhoff, the project scientist in charge of the BepiColombo mission, said that Mercury is special and is the densest planet in our solar system, even denser than Earth – if we consider uncompressed density – and has a magnetic field, like Earth, that no one expected before, so I guess it’s a cool planet to go to.
The mission will help us understand how planets can form so close to their parent star, and will analyze Mercury’s geology and magnetic field and will also provide further confirmation of Einstein’s general theory of relativity.
The researchers revealed that upon arrival, a module called Mercury Planet Orbiter (MPO) will separate from the rest of the spacecraft and perform a detailed study of the Mercury system and the module is designed by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, which jointly conducts the mission along with ESA.
It will use gravity assists to reach its destination: it will first complete a fly-by of Earth, essentially returning to our planet two years after launch. Then it will perform two fly-bys of Venus, before finally heading toward Mercury.