Science

BepiColombo Spacecraft Snaps A Selfie On Its Way To Mercury

BepiColombo Spacecraft
Image Credit: ESA/BepiColombo/MTM – CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

The BepiColombo spacecraft has introduced us to its views of space in a selfie. The BepiColombo Mercury Transfer Module (MTM) is on its way to Mercury in a mission conducted by the European Space Agency (ESA) and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). The spacecraft’s payload is a pair of orbiters designed to study the first planet of the solar system.

The ESA shared the new image from the BepiColombo spacecraft over the weekend. It strongly resembles a selfie, as it captures parts of the spacecraft against the black abyss of space. The picture shows one of its extended solar arrays on the right side, while the left side of the picture shows the layered insulation of one of its sun sensors. It was delivered to space by the Ariane 6 rocket that successfully lifted off on Saturday, according to the Associated Press.

“The transfer module is equipped with three monitoring cameras, which provide black-and-white snapshots in 1024 x 1024 pixel resolution,” the ESA said in a statement. “The other two cameras will be activated tomorrow and are expected to capture images of the deployed medium- and high-gain antennas onboard the Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO).”

The BepiColombo spacecraft must travel for seven years to reach Mercury. The mission is a collaboration between the ESA and JAXA. The two space agencies hope to learn more about our sun’s closest planet using the Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO) and the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO.) The MMO will allow astronomers to study Mercury’s magnetic field and its interaction with the sun, while the MPO will map and take pictures of the planet. The two spacecraft have 16 instruments between them to support the scientific mission.

“It has a fantastic sequence of instruments on it,” University of Leicester physics professor Timothy Yeoman told Gizmodo this week. “There’s no compromise in the design of the mission.”

Each orbiter is controlled by its own respective agency and has unique goals in Mercury’s orbit. ESA Director General Jan Wörner said in a statement that the “mission will return a huge bounty of science.”

BepiColombo’s path to Mercury includes “a fly-by of Earth, two of Venus and six of Mercury itself so it can slow down before arriving at its destination in December 2025,” the Associated Press reported on Saturday. The BepiColombo spacecraft has been in space for only a couple of days, so there’s no doubt it will snap many more photos and selfies on its long journey to Mercury.