The BepiColombo Mission is an active collaboration between the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) involving the study of our planetary neighbor Mercury. The mission began in October 2018, when the two orbiters involved left Earth to begin their 7-year expedition toward the gray planet. Once the orbiters reach Mercury, it will analyze the planet for an expected three years. The two spacecraft of the mission are each from ESA and JAXA: the Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO), and the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (Mio). Each orbiter is equipped with instruments such as spectrometers, magnetometers, or plasma wave analysers. This is a difficult mission, since the journey involves approaching the Sun, and then shifting towards the orbital plane of Mercury through a series of gravity assists from the inner terrestrial planets.
BepiColombo is currently transiting through free space at --,--- (--,---). With this simulation you are capable of live tracking the BepiColombo spacecraft as it makes its journey toward Mercury, with scientific and physical accuracy, utilizing the actual mission data from NASA/JPL. The simulation allows for tracking each moment of the mission, from leaving Earth to orbit around Mercury. These visualizations allow for a more versatile way of learning about space expeditions.
Where is BepiColombo now?Space in 3D Web App
The mission is well underway now, and the MPO and Mio have begun their steady cruise toward Mercury. For the first few months after launch in 2018, there was a near-Earth commissioning phase. The orbiters then left to head toward the direction of the Sun, using the star’s gravity for assistance. So far, the key events that have happened in this mission are the launching, and Earth flyby that happened back in April 2020. In October of that year, the first flyby of Venus will occur. BepiColombo is currently ---,---,--- (---,---,---) from Venus on the tracker. The way the flybys are occurring is that the spacecraft is circling the Sun too, and over time it gets closer to Mercury, using Venus and Earth to assist it gravitationally.
There are two primary scientific objectives to the BepiColombo mission: to study the composition of Mercury, and to study the magnetosphere of Mercury. There’s interest in Mercury’s composition since there are ambiguities as to what Mercury is truly made of—supposedly, Mercury’s core is made of iron, but there have been little traces of iron detected on Mercury in the past, so going up close may illuminate how much iron there really is, as well as understand the core of the planet in greater detail (MPO’s job). Additionally, the orbiters will conduct experiments that investigate the potential tectonic activity on Mercury, as well as how the magnetic field of Mercury and how it interacts with the solar wind and how that may compare to Earth’s magnetic field (Mio’s job). And this mission provides implications for the study of planets close to their parent-star, which can be applied to the study of exoplanets.
Why is this mission important? It’s just another planetary mission, right? The thing is, there are numerous implications with the BepiColombo mission, for space exploration, astronomy, all the way to theoretical physics. Humanity hasn’t visited Mercury much yet; there have been a few missions in the past, but a lot of what we know about the planet is a result of what we’ve inferred from Earth. Going up close allows for insight about how the planet formed, and how even the entire solar system may have formed. And since Mercury sees dangerous changes in temperature, this will be one of the most challenging planetary missions yet. And finally, going to the planet allows for a deeper look into Mercury’s perihelion precession—a way to validate Einstein’s theory of general relativity.
BepiColombo spacecraft is currently tracking ---,---,--- (---,---,---) from the Mercury, and ---,---,--- (---,---,---) from us.
Since last night BepiColombo is 531,068 km (331,917 mi) closer to Mercury. Since you started looking at this page it is 0 km (0 mi) closer.
Venus flyby dates
BepiColombo is scheduled to fly by Venus on 15th October 2020.
Photo Credit and other: NASA, ESO/S. Brunier, NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI, NASA/JPL-Caltech, JAXA, University of Tokyo & collaborators, UH/IA, Solar System Scope/INOVE CC BY 4.0, Wikipedia/Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License, icons8.com, Péter Eke, NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona/Roman Tkachenko, Wikimedia Commons, Hayabusa 2 Arrival illustration by Akihiro Ikeshita (permission granted), oNline Web Fonts, Font Awesome