The European space probe BepiColombo passed by Mercury for the first time. It happened at night from Friday to Saturday, according to the European Space Agency (ESA). Pictures of the planet were also taken when the probe flew a thousand kilometers from Mercury. At its closest, the probe flew 200 km from Mercury.
The goal of the space mission, created by the European Space Agency in cooperation with Japan, is to collect data on the origin and composition of Mercury. With this, researchers hope to learn more about the smallest planet in the solar system, which is also the closest to the sun. The probe consists of a European and Japanese satellite and was launched in 2018.
To reach Mercury, the gravity of the Sun must be taken into account. In its attempts to get closer, the spacecraft flew across the planet six times. The flight at night from Friday to Saturday was the first of its kind flyby’s. The probe will pass the planet for the second time in June 2022.
The probe is scheduled to enter a stable orbit and land by 2025. The two satellites in the probe at that time will split up to conduct different studies. Prior to the current flight that bypassed Mercury, BepiColombo flew once above Earth and twice over Venus.
Correction (October 2, 2021): An earlier version of this article stated that BepiColombo will collect surface material. However, BepiColombo will not land on this planet.