Jiji Press TOKYO (Jiji Press) — Two probes in a joint Mercury exploration mission between Japan and Europe, named BepiColombo, will be launched from French Guiana in South America aboard an Ariane 5 rocket in October.
Mercury, the closest planet to the sun, is 4,880 kilometers in diameter and two-fifths the size of Earth. It is still shrouded in mystery because of difficulty observing it and sending a probe from Earth.
Scientists are excited about the mission, in which the probes are slated to arrive at the planet at the end of 2025. They say that the mission will bring discoveries that will make it necessary to rewrite textbooks.
In the mission, the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter, developed by Japan, and the Mercury Planetary Orbiter, by the European Space Agency, will enter the orbit of the planet.
The MMO will observe Mercury’s magnetic field in detail and study the internal structure, including a molten metallic core creating the magnetic field that is believed to exist in the planet. Meanwhile, the MPO will examine the planet’s terrain, the composition of its minerals and other features.
“Information on newly-born terrestrial planets should be left on Mercury, which does not have an atmosphere,” said Go Murakami, assistant professor at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, who is in charge of the Japanese side’s scientific observations.
He added that the mission will provide important clues to how Earth has formed into its current state and how it has taken a different form from Mars and Venus.
In recent years, scientists have found terrestrial planets outside the solar system that, like Mercury, closely orbit stars.
A better understanding of Mercury is expected to contribute to progress in research into the possibility of life on planets outside the solar system.