Spacecraft Prepares to Slingshot Around Venus

Venus is not only friendly when we stare at it as it illuminates the night sky. Our neighboring planet is like a living Hell – it has around 465 degrees Celsius on its surface, it rains with sulphuric acid, the atmospheric pressure is equal to the one present way beneath the Earth’s water surfaces, and so on. But even so, a spacecraft will use the gravity of Venus to perform a slingshot.

BepiColombo, which is a project between European and Japanese astronomers, is the vehicle in question. BepiColombo means two spacecraft that are wrapped in one. There’s one spacecraft overseen by the ESA (European Space Agency) and another one overseen by JAXA (Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency).

Destination: Mercury

The two spacecraft will separate and each of it will orbit the little planet, in an attempt to gather data about the cosmic object’s structure, magnetic field, atmosphere, and so on. However, we’ll still have a lot to wait until that moment, as BepiColombo will reach Mercury in a maximum of five years.  

Johannes Benkhoff, who’s a project scientist for BepiColombo, declared for The Verge:

You need a lot of energy, actually, to put a spacecraft into orbit around Mercury,

And there are two alternatives in order to get this energy: one is to have a lot of fuel, which will make your spacecraft bulky and heavy. The other alternative is to use the help of the planets.

BepiColombo will even perform six flybys of Mercury before settling into the planet’s orbit in December 2025.

Mercury completes a full rotation around the Sun in just 88 days, as it’s the closest planet from our star: only 57.91 million km. Mercury is named after the Greek god Hermes, which is translated into Latin as Mercurius Mercury. In Greek mythology, he was the god of commerce, the messenger of the gods, and also the mediator between gods and mortals.

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