The Europe-Japan mission to Mercury sends back photos of the planet’s cratered surface

The BepiColombo mission did a fly-by of the planet on Friday

The Europe-Japan mission to Mercury sends back photos of the planet’s cratered surface0 The BepiColombo mission snapped this photo of Mercury on October 1st.

Photos from a fly-by of Mercury, the least-explored planet in our solar system, show ithas a crater-riddled surface that resembles Earth’s Moon.

The photos came from BepiColombo, a joint mission between the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) that launched from Europe’s Spaceport in 2018. The mission has two linked orbiting spacecraft, the Mercury Planetary Orbiter and the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter. The mission is planned to reach Mercury’s orbit in late 2025.

BepiColombo aims to gather more information about Mercury and its composition, and how it evolved so close to our Sun. Temperatures on Mercury can exceed 350 degrees Celsius, or about 660 degrees Fahrenheit.

ESA explains where the craters came from and what the surface of the planet is believed to be like:

BepiColombo is named for Italian scientist Giuseppe “Bepi” Colombo, who helped develop the gravity assist procedure that the first spacecraft sent to Mercury, NASA’s Mariner 10, used in 1974. The fly-bys allow the spacecraft to use Mercury’s gravity to enter the planet’s orbit. Friday’s fly-by of Mercury was the first of six planned before it enters the planet’s orbit for closer study. BepiColombo will also build on data collected by NASA’s Messenger mission, which orbited Mercury between 2011 and 2015.

As the spacecraft get closer to Mercury, it will be able to take higher-res images. More images from Friday’s fly-by will be available in the coming days, ESA said.

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