kourou/darmstadt - The satellites for the BepiColombo mission are on their way to Mercury. The Ariane 5 rocket with a European and a Japanese satellite on board was successfully launched from 3.45 am Dutch time from French Guiana.
The probe sent a signal to earth at 4.21 pm Dutch time. This allowed the control center of the European Space Agency ESA in Darmstadt to take control of the mission. The employees applauded when the signal came in. The probe had previously disconnected from the Ariane 5 rocket.
Mercury is the first and the smallest planet of our solar system. He is very close to the sun. This makes it very difficult to get there. The satellites fly once after the earth, twice past Venus and six times along Mercury. Only in 2026 will they come into orbit around the planet. The detour must prevent the sun from dragging and swallowing the satellites.
The European satellite is called MPO. He will be running around Mercury ten rounds per day, and that for at least one year. He must make clear, among other things, what the surface of the planet consists of. The Japanese probe Mio has to look at the surroundings of Mercury, including the so-called solar wind, a stream of charged particles from the sun, which bombards the planet continuously.