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The BepiColombo spacecraft that starts its mission to Mercury has captured the first image shared by the European Space Agency (ESA). As we reported yesterday, European-Japanese spacecraft started seven-year journey to Mercury to probe the solar system’s smallest and least-explored planet.
According to www.esa.int the BepiColombo Mercury Transfer Module (MTM) has returned its first image from space. The view looks along one of the stretched solar arrays. The structure in the bottom left corner is one of the sun sensors on the MTM, with the multi-layered insulation clearly visible.
“The transfer module is equipped with three monitoring cameras, which provide black-and-white snapshots in 1024 x 1024-pixel resolution,” the ESA said. “The other two cameras will be activated tomorrow and are expected to capture images of the deployed medium- and high-gain antennas onboard the Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO).”
ESA also says that the 1.3 billion-euro ($1.5 billion) mission is one of the most challenging in its history. Mercury’s extreme temperatures, the intense gravity pull of the sun and blistering solar radiation make for hellish conditions.
About the monitoring cameras
The monitoring cameras will be used on various occasions during the cruise phase, notably during the flybys of Earth, Venus and Mercury. While the MPO is equipped with a high-resolution scientific camera, this can only be operated after separating from the MTM upon arrival at Mercury in late 2025 because, like several of the 11 instrument suites, it is located on the side of the spacecraft fixed to the MTM during cruise, indicates esa.int.
JAXA President Hiroshi Yamakawa said the agency had “high expectations” that data collected by the orbiters “will help us better understand the environment of the planet, and ultimately, the origin of the Solar System including that of Earth.”
The journey launched at 01:45 GMT on 20 October on an Ariane 5.
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