First flight over Venus by the BepiColombo probe
First flight over Venus by the BepiColombo probe

| Pierre-François Mouriaux

First flight over Venus by the BepiColombo probe

Every weekend, we publish an image that made the news or caught our attention. On October 15, the Euro-Japanese probe on its way to Mercury performed a gravitational assistance manoeuvre in the vicinity of Venus.

Only 11,000 km away

Launched by an Ariane 5 from French Guiana on 20 October 2018, the Euro-Japanese BepiColombo mission approached the planet Venus on 15 October in order to modify its trajectory that will lead it to the planet Mercury in December 2025.

The closest passage took place at 3:58 UTC, at a distance of 10,720 km.

It was 14,000 km one minute earlier, when this image was taken by a surveillance camera of the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO) module. The gain antenna appears at the top of the image, as does the arrow of the magnetometer, which "crosses"Venus (visible at top right).

The terminator - the boundary between the fully illuminated planet (day) and the fully shaded area (night) - can be seen in the corner on the right.

The cameras on board the probe provide black and white snapshots every 52 seconds, with a resolution of 1024 x 1024 pixels.

The image has been slightly reprocessed to enhance contrast.

 Seven others manoeuvers

After passing as close as possible near the Earth on April 10, this manoeuvre by BepiColombo was the first of the two "low-flights” over the Shepherd's Star that were necessary to make the right move towards Mercury.

Six overflights of Mercury will be necessary to free itself from the attraction of the Sun and put it into orbit to start its measurements.

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