2021 | MERTIS meets Mercury
The European-Japanese spacecraft BepiColombo, which set off for Mercury on October 20, 2018, is getting closer and closer to its destination - to 199 kilometers (12.365 miles) close to be more precise.
On October 1, 2021, the spacecraft flew past its destination for the first time and provided the first photographic images of the planet closest to the sun.
According to information, the spacecraft flew past Mercury at an altitude of only 199 kilometers (123.65 miles). However, conditions were not ideal for capturing images at close range, as BepiColombo was on the night side of the planet. Therefore, the next image was taken from a distance of about 1.000 kilometers.
“In addition to the images we obtained from the monitoring cameras we also operated several science instruments on the Mercury Planetary Orbiter and Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter,” says ESA’s BepiColombo project scientist Johannes Benkhoff. One of these scientific instruments on board the spacecraft is MERTIS. (Source) The infrared spectrometer, manufactured at the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering IOF, will be used on Mercury to characterize the minerals and elements on the planet's surface.
The flight past Mercury was the first of six. The total of nine planetary flybys - BepiColombo has already passed Earth once and Venus twice - should slow the spacecraft down enough by 2025 to enable it to enter the orbit of the target planet. Once it arrives at Mercury, it will hopefully provide information about the special features of the planet's surface and its magnetic field.