This content was published on Oct 03, 2021 – Jul 06:04,
October 03, 2021 – 06:04
The “BabyColombo” satellite, dedicated to exploring Mercury, took its first pictures of the closest planet to the sun, and flew at an altitude of about two hundred kilometers from it, the European Space Agency announced Saturday.
This is the first time since the launch of this joint satellite between the European and Japanese space agencies in 2018, flying over the planet, which is its “target”.
It is scheduled that “Baby Colombo” will be placed in the orbit of Mercury in the year 2025, because reaching the smallest planets of the solar system is very difficult.
The spacecraft’s cameras captured black and white pictures during its flight over Mercury, but after it reached the night side of the planet, the conditions were not “ideal” to take pictures directly from the closest point (199 kilometers), and the closest pictures that he succeeded in taking were from a distance of about 1000 kilometers, As explained by the European Space Agency in a statement.
These images show large impact craters on the surface that were formed by the eruption of huge lava billions of years ago.
“It’s amazing to finally see our target planet,” said Elsa Montagnion, director of operations for the spacecraft.
Scientific instruments on this spacecraft are supposed to study the formation of Mercury in an effort to solve the mystery of this burning planet, which has undergone the least exploration of the four rocky planets in the solar system.
Five more flights over Mercury are planned before the mission’s final destination, on a complex path that will also see the satellite fly over Venus and Earth.
The “BabyColombo” mission observes five more flybys of Mercury before the satellite reaches its final destination through a tangled path that also includes its flyby of Venus and Earth.
It was not possible to launch the satellite directly towards Mercury, as the strong gravity of the Sun required a giant maneuver to curb the speed in order to successfully put it into orbit, which would require a large amount of fuel for a spacecraft of this size.
Hence, the option to point it in an indirect trajectory and use the natural gravity of Earth and then Venus would allow the satellite to “naturally” slow during its journey.