Photos of the Earth taken by the BepiColombo spacecraft

On April 10, the BepiColombo mission completed its first and only overflight of Earth. When approaching Earth, a sequence of images was taken by one of the MCAM selfie cameras. The distance to Earth increased from approximately 26,700 km to 12,800 km during the capture of the sequence. The maneuver, the first in a series of nine overflights but the only one on Earth, helped direct the probe toward Venus as it gradually approaches its target orbit around Mercury. During its seven-year journey to the smallest terrestrial planet in the solar system, BepiColombo will use twice the gravity of Venus and six times that of Mercury.

 

BepiColombo s last close up of Earth during flyby 20200410 625Crédit: ESA/BepiColombo/MTM, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

 

Launched on October 20th 2018, BepiColombo is the first European mission to study the planet Mercury. Its journey will last seven years before it approaches the smallest and least explored terrestrial planet in our solar system. Upon arrival at the end of 2025, the probe will undergo temperatures above 350 ° C and collect data during its nominal mission of one year, with a possible extension of one year. BepiColombo consists of two scientific orbiters: the ESA Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO) and the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO or "Mio") of JAXA.

Built by ESA, the transfer module to Mercury (MTM) will transport the orbiters to Mercury by combining a helioelectric propulsion system and several gravitational assistance maneuvers including a flyby of the Earth, two flyovers of Venus and six flyovers of Mercury before the orbit insertions of MPO and MMO. The MPO orbiter, with its 11 instruments dedicated to mapping and studying the surface of Mercury and its atmosphere and the MMO orbiter, supplied by Japan, will study in particular the magnetic field of Mercury, its magnetosphere and the internal interplanetary space thanks to its five instruments.