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BepiColombo flies by Venus en route to Mercury

Written by  Wednesday, 14 October 2020 07:50
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BepiColombo images Venus during close approach

The ESA-JAXA BepiColombo mission has completed the first of two Venus flybys needed to set it on course with the Solar System’s innermost planet, Mercury.

BepiColombo’s first Venus flyby
BepiColombo’s first Venus flyby

Science in the making

Seven of the eleven science instruments onboard the European Mercury Planetary Orbiter, plus its radiation monitor, and three of five onboard the Japanese Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter were active during the flyby. While the suite of sensors are designed to study the rocky, atmosphere-free environment at Mercury, the flyby offered a unique opportunity to collect valuable science data at Venus.

“Following the successful Earth flyby where our instruments worked even better than expected, we are looking forward to see what will come out of the Venus flyby,” says Johannes Benkhoff, ESA’s BepiColombo Project Scientist.

“We’ll have to be patient while our Venus specialists look carefully into the data, but we hope to be able to provide some atmosphere temperature and density profiles, information about the chemical composition and cloud cover, and on the magnetic environment interaction between the Sun and Venus. But we rather anticipate more results next year than now, given the closer flyby distance, so watch this space!”

The 2021 flyby, planned for 10 August, will see the spacecraft pass within just 550 km of the planet’s surface.


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