BepiColombo recently performed its first close flight over Mercury. Despite difficult viewing conditions, these images are among the most accurate we have ever had on the planet.
The joint ESA / JAXA BepiColombo mission reached Mercury on 1is last october. The probe must wait to enter a stable orbit before it can use its high definition cameras. However, BepiColombo was able to take some great shots with its low resolution black and white camera, initially scheduled to monitor its own condition.
The spacecraft thus passed about 199 km from the surface of Mercury. Unfortunately, she was on the night side of the planet during this first phase of approach. However, the probe began taking pictures immediately after, and up to 4 hours later. She also sent her first reports directly back to Earth. within 12 hours.
The general first impressions of scientists regarding the first images are rather positive. In addition to photographing the planet’s surface, mission controllers captured images of the probe’s equipment itself. in order to verify its structural integrity. The probe is in perfect condition, and will be able to begin its mission in orbit from 2026.
BepiColombo: the best is yet to come
However, before we can explore Mercury in more detail, thethe probe will have to slow down to begin its main scientific missions. BepiColombo will then be divided into two different orbital probes : ESA’s Mercury Planet Orbiter, which will be primarily responsible for mapping the planet’s surface, and JAXA’s Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter, who will take a closer look at the core of the planet.
Once the two orbiters have been separated, BepiColombo will be able to start photographing the planet from all angles, in high definition in color. Indeed, the two modules are currently placed in front of his best cameras. This arrangement allows two advantages. First, an obvious space saving, but also a foolproof optics protection during the trip.
Source : universetoday