On June 23, BepiColombo will pass barely 200 kilometers (124 miles) over Mercury’s surface, taking use of the planet’s gravity to slow down and move closer to its long-term goal of entering Mercury’s orbit. This flyby had been planned for years by the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Japanese Space Agency (JAXA). The only method to enter the inner solar system is to significantly slow down your spaceship, which carries the Earth’s velocity with it. Spending a lot of fuel is one method to achieve it; alternatively, you may employ planets to put you in the appropriate orbit.
BepiColombo is named after Giuseppe “Bepi” Colombo, an Italian mathematician who devised a means to fly by Mercury with the help of Venus’ gravitational pull. More flybys are required to go into orbit around the planet. One of Earth, two of Venus, and one of Mercury has already been accomplished by the vessel. BepiColombo will travel past the earth at a relative speed of 7.5 kilometers (4.66 miles) per second in the forthcoming second one.
The spacecraft’s velocity with regard to the Sun will slow by 1.3 kilometers (0.8 miles) per second as it travels around the planet. Closer to Mercury’s speed, but not quite there yet. Four additional flybys are required. The spacecraft will exploit the short approach with Mercury to capture some photographs and collect data while it is still largely in navigation mode rather than science mode. On June 27, the photographs are expected to be revealed.
“These research ‘grabs’ are particularly valuable even during short flybys,” Johannes Benkhoff, ESA’s BepiColombo project scientist, said in a statement. “We get a head start on preparations to ensure we transition into the core research mission as fast and successfully as possible, while also flying our world-class science laboratory through varied and undiscovered sections of Mercury’s environment that we won’t have access to once in orbit.” Mercury’s third flyby will occur on June 23, 2023. On December 5, 2025, BepiColombo will enter orbit around the Earth for the first time.