Never miss a story

Get subscribed to our newsletter


×
TESS, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, is shown in this conceptual illustration obtained by Reuters on March 28, 2018. NASA sent TESS into orbit from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. VOA

Two satellites developed in Europe and Japan are on their way to the Sun’s closest planet Mercury. It is likely to take them seven years to reach their destination.

The joint endeavour BepiColombo left Earth on an Ariane rocket that launched out of South America on Friday, the BBC said.


The probes lifted clear of the Kourou spaceport in Atlantic coast of French Guiana at 10.45 p.m. on Friday.

Mission controllers based in Darmstadt, Germany, would spend much of Saturday talking to the spacecraft, to confirm they were properly configured for the long cruise ahead.

Coming close on the heels of NASA’s Parker Solar Probe that was launched in August, Bepi is aimed at finding more about Mercury that “doesn’t really fit with our theories for how the Solar System formed”, said Bepi scientist Professor Dave Rothery from the UK’s Open University.


This illustration from NASA shows the Parker Solar Probe spacecraft approaching the sun. VOA

“We can’t understand our planet fully unless we’re able to explain Mercury that has an oversized iron core — 60 per cent of its mass,” Rothery said.

Science has not yet explained why the planet only has a thin veneer of rocks. Bepi’s high-resolution data should bring us nearer to an answer, the BBC reported.

It’s the first time the European and Japanese space agencies (Esa and Jaxa) have set out for Mercury. The Americans have already been there, briefly with the Mariner 10 probe in the 1970s, and with the Messenger orbiter earlier this decade.

Messenger discovered that water-ice is held inside some of Mercury’s shadowed craters, and that its crust contains a lot of graphite (pencil lead).

Bepi will build on those. The new mission carries twice as much instrumentation and will get closer for longer.

Mercury’s dense body does not reflect its initial form. It’s possible the planet began life much further and later migrated inwards, mission scientist Suzie Imber from Leicester University.


We know so little about the planet Mercury… The BepiColombo mission will try to unravel some of its mysteries. Flickr

“It’s also got huge cliffs, many kilometres tall. And those cliffs formed as Mercury shrank. We call them wrinkle ridges,” Imber said.

It is possible to directly reach Mercury in a matter of months, but the speed picked up by a spacecraft falling into the Sun’s deep gravity would make it very hard to stop at the planet, the BBC report said.

Bepi will take a more circuitous route. It will fly past Earth, Venus and Mercury itself, using the tug of their gravity to bleed off speed, so that by 2025 the mission can gently slot into position.

The toughest prospect ahead is the heat. At just 58 million km from the Sun, working at Mercury is like being in a pizza oven, Imber said.

The sides of the probes in direct sunlight will have to cope with temperatures over 400 degrees Celsius. Even those surfaces facing away from the Sun have to be protected.

Coping strategies include covering the MMO in thick blankets of insulation material made from titanium and ceramics. “The environment is extremely hostile,” explains Esa mission controller Elsa Montagnon.


Solar system. Pixabay

“On Mercury, we get 10 times the solar energy we get on Earth. But then from the illuminated side of Mercury, we get about four times what we get on the Earth. So, the spacecraft are continually in a heat sandwich,” Montagnon said.

The mission is an expensive one. It’s estimated the costs borne by the European Space Agency and the Japanese space agency amount to about 1.65 billion euros.

Additionally, national space agencies in Europe have paid for the instrumentation on the MMO, taking the overall budget above 3 billion euros.

Also Read: Another Space Telescope Shuts Down: NASA

This number covers the full lifecycle of the mission, from its approval (2007) to its termination (late 2020s).

Engineers have had a torrid time developing the technologies to keep Bepi safe so close to the Sun. Delays have kept on adding to the price. (IANS)


Popular

Photo by Diabetesmagazijn.nl on Unsplash

Eating fruits is one of the most satisfying ways to tackle sweet-tooth cravings while meeting your nutritional needs.

By Monika Manchanda

Eating fruits is one of the most satisfying ways to tackle sweet-tooth cravings while meeting your nutritional needs. Despite many studies and research on fruit consumption in diabetes, there are a lot of speculations on the right kind of fruit consumption and its relation to blood sugar levels.

Eating seasonal and locally available fruit has many health benefits ranging from reducing sugar and inflammation levels to fighting high blood pressure -- thanks to their abundant vitamins and mineral presence! They are a powerhouse of antioxidants like vitamins A, B, C, E, and minerals like iron, calcium, magnesium, and fiber.

The fruits listed below are not just diabetic-friendly but are loaded with fiber and water content which can slow down the sugar spikes and sugar absorption rate. Apples are not just nutritious and filling; According to a study, they are significantly associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes if consumed in moderation. Turns out there is a truth in the old saying, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away", after all!

red apples Apples are not just nutritious and filling; According to a study, they are significantly associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes if consumed in moderation. | Photo by Pierpaolo Riondato on Unsplash

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Your monthly round up of the latest lifestyle launches, from luxury indulgences to artisanal creations.

By Nimerta C Sharan

Your monthly round up of the latest lifestyle launches, from luxury indulgences to artisanal creations, here's what you can look forward to :

Bag This
Exciting news for all handbag lovers, luxury fashion house Louis Vuitton recently launched their limited edition handbags 'Artycapucines - Chapter 3'. Six internationally -- acclaimed artists have transformed the black canvas of the timeless Capucines bag into beautiful art pieces. Each bag will be available in a limited edition of 200 and will be released worldwide at the end of October 2021.

white leather shoulder bag on shopping cart Exciting news for all handbag lovers, luxury fashion house Louis Vuitton recently launched their limited edition handbags. | Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

Keep Reading Show less
IANS

Actress Kangana Ranaut has talked about how her weight adjustments for her latest 'Thalaivii' that "messed up many things" in her body

Actress Kangana Ranaut has talked about how her weight adjustments for her latest 'Thalaivii' that "messed up many things" in her body and left her with "permanent stretch marks". For her role in the film, based on the life of late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and former actress J. Jayalalithaa, Kangana had to gain 20kg and undergo major physical transformation several times.

She took to Instagram to share her experience, detailing that doing all that over the six months period left her with "permanent stretch marks". "Gaining 20 kgs in 6 months and loosing it all within 6 months that too in my thirties messed up many things in my bodya I also have permanent stretch marks as well but art comes to life with a price and more often than not price is the artist him/herself," she wrote.

"Thalaivii" showcases the varied aspects of Jayalalithaa's life, tracing her journey as an actress at a young age to becoming the face of Tamil cinema, as well as the rise of the revolutionary leader who changed the course of the state's politics. Talking about her upcoming works, Kangana currently has 'Dhaakad'.

She is also shooting for her next 'Tejas', where she plays a fighter pilot. The Indian Air Force was the first of the country's defence forces to induct women into combat roles in 2016. The film takes inspiration from the landmark event. 'Tejas' is directed by debutant Sarvesh Mewara. The film will be RSVP's second film which pays a tribute to the Indian military after the immensely successful film "Uri: The Surgical Strike" which was released in January 2019. (IANS/ MBI)


Keep reading... Show less