The European space exploration mission, BepiColombo, flew over Mercury on the night of Friday to Saturday and was even able to film the planet, which is the one closest to the sun, the European Space Agency (ESA) announced on Twitter.
“The flyby was flawless from the spacecraft point of view, and it’s incredible to finally see our target planet,” Elsa Montagnon, Spacecraft Operations Manager for the mission, said in an ESA press release.
The BepiColombo was launched in October 2018. The ESA and Japanese JAXA probes it transported are scheduled to be placed in orbit around Mercury in 2025 at the end of a complex trajectory, since the smallest of the planets in our solar system is very difficult to reach.
— ESA (@esa) October 2, 2021
Its scientific instruments are intended to study the composition of Mercury and solve the mystery of the formation of this burnt planet, the least explored of the four rocky planets of the solar system, and to understand the evolution of the entire system.
Before propelling itself towards its final destination, the satellite will have done nine reconnaissance flights: one towards the Earth, two towards Venus and six others towards Mercury. These maneuvers are geared to enable the BepiColombo to go safely into orbit around Mercury.
The first photograph taken on this reconnaissance flight was sent to Earth about 30 minutes later. It was taken at a distance of 1,000 kilometres, not when closest to the planet – 200 km— because the satellite was then flying over the dark side of the planet.
The Brussels Times