In a first-of-its-kind mission, a UK-built spacecraft will set off for Mercury to determine whether the plant, which is the closest to the Sun, contains water. The European Space Agency’s (ESA) BepiColombo mission will send two orbiters to explore the planet where the surface temperatures reach about 450 degrees Celsius.
1. The spacecraft will launch from the European Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, on October 20 and will take seven years to reach Mercury, arriving in 2025.
2. During its 5.2 billion miles journey, the spacecraft will make a complex series of fly-bys of Earth, Venus and Mercury to help it slow down enough to avoid the huge gravitational pull of the Sun.
3. Despite being the nearest to the Sun, the tilt of the planet signifies that some of its areas are permanently in shade and temperatures can fall to minus 180 degrees Celsius, allowing ice to form on the planet.
4. Through the mission, the researchers also look to learn more about Mercury’s magnetic field.
5. While it was thought that the planet was solid all the way through, some of the previous missions discovered a magnetic field suggests that it may have a molten interior.