ESA to Conduct BepiColombo Flyby Amid Coronavirus Crisis

Image credit: ESA/BepiColombo/MTM

Despite worldwide disruptions due to the coronavirus pandemic, the ESA-JAXA spacecraft BepiColombo will carry out its scheduled flyby of Earth to adjust its trajectory towards its final destination of Mercury. BepiColombo consists of two separate spacecraft, the Japanese Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (Mio) and ESA’s Mercury Planetary Orbiter. The flyby of Earth will provide an opportunity for engineers to test and calibrate scientific instrumentation onboard the spacecraft (while complying with social distancing rules). It will also be the last time that BepiColombo is visible from Earth during its seven-year journey to Mercury. Observers in the southern hemisphere may be able to view the flyby with small telescopes. BepiColombo will go into orbit around Mercury in late 2025 after eight more flyby gravity assists, two by Venus and six by Mercury itself. READ MORE