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April 9, 2020 08:56 pm

A spacecraft is about to swing by Earth to get a gravity assist on its way to Mercury

An artistic rendering of BepiColombo as it swings by Earth. | Image: ESA / ATG medialab

On Friday, an interplanetary spacecraft will slingshot around Earth in the super early morning hours. The spacecraft, a joint European and Japanese creation, will use our planet’s gravity to brake its speed and change its course through the Solar System, putting itself on track to reach Mercury in the next five years.

The probe whipping by our planet is called BepiColombo, which is actually two spacecraft wrapped into one package. One spacecraft, designed and operated by the European Space Agency, is equipped with 11 instruments to study Mercury from the planet’s orbit. The second comes from the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), and it’s designed to study Mercury while spinning in orbit. Once they reach Mercury, the two...

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