Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

  • NEWS

Mission to Mercury launches successfully

BepiColombo lifted off from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, on an Ariane 5 rocket at 01:45:28 GMT on 20 October 2018.Credit: ESA/S.Corvaja

A joint Japanese–European mission that is set to be the second ever to enter Mercury’s orbit launched successfully on 19 October from Kourou, French Guiana.

The €1.6-billion (US$1.8-billion) mission, called BepiColombo, will insert two probes into the planet’s orbit in 2025, after several fly-bys of Earth, Venus and Mercury itself.

One probe, built mainly by the European Space Agency (ESA), will study Mercury’s surface and its inner structure.

The other, built by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, will focus on the planet’s magnetic field and its interaction with the solar wind.

Hours after launch, BepiColombo successfully deployed its antennas and two 15-metre-long “solar wings”, ESA said. The craft also took several “space selfies” using three on-board monitoring cameras.

The BepiColombo Mercury Transfer Module (MTM) has returned its first image of the deployed high-gain antenna onboard the Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO). The actual deployment took place earlier today, and was confirmed by telemetry.Credit: ESA/BepiColombo/MTM

BepiColombo in numbers

1 Earth fly-by

2 Venus fly-bys

6 Mercury fly-bys before it arrives in its orbit on 5 December 2025

7 years to reach Mercury’s orbit

9 billion kilometres total travel distance

13 minutes maximum travel time for a one-way signal between the probe and Earth

60 kilometres per second fastest speed the probe will reach

240 million kilometres maximum distance between the probe and Earth

–180 °C to +450 °C temperature range the probe will experience at Mercury

Source: ESA

doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-018-07139-w

Subjects

Nature Careers

Jobs

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing

Search

Quick links