Ariane rocket to hoist Europe-Japan Mercury mission

Sep 15, 2011
An Ariane-5 rocket blasts off on August 6 from the European space centre at Kourou, French Guiana. An unmanned European-Japanese mission to Mercury will be launched by Ariane 5 rocket in July 2014 under a contract announced by Arianespace.

An unmanned European-Japanese mission to Mercury will be launched by Ariane 5 rocket in July 2014 under a contract announced on Thursday by Arianespace.

The BepiColombo mission, named after a 20th-century Italian mathematician who studied the rotation of , comprises two probes that will enter orbit around the closest planet to the Sun after a six-year trek.

The rocket for the 4.4-tonne payload will be a heavy-lift Ariane 5 ECA, hoisted from the (ESA) base in Kourou, French Guiana, the European launch operator said in a press release.

The partners in the mission are ESA, providing the Mercury Planetary Orbiter, and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (), whose contribution is the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter.

Mercury is listed in ESA's "cornerstone" investigations of the Solar System, which include the ongoing missions to Mars and Venus, as well as the , which was sent down to the Saturnian moon of Titan in January 2005 by the US spacecraft Cassini.

BepiColombo will use slow-but-steady solar propulsion and gravitational boosts from swings around Earth, Venus and Mercury itself to arrive at its destination in 2020.

The two orbiters will carry instruments to explore Mercury's crater-pocked surface, its magnetic field and thin vestigial atmosphere. Because of budgetary constraints, plans to add a small lander, the Mercury Surface Element (MSE), have been scrapped.

Mercury is one of the most enigmatic planets of the Solar System.

Temperatures reach 425 degrees Celsius (800 degrees Fahrenheit) during the day but plummet to -100 C (-150 F) at night.

Even though the planet is relatively close to Earth, it has been little explored, mainly because of the challenge of shielding scoutcraft from the radiation blasted out by the nearby Sun.

A NASA probe, MESSENGER, went into orbit around Mercury on March 17 for a year-long investigation after a six-and-a-half-year trip.

Explore further: Total lunar eclipse before dawn on April 4th

Related Stories


Aug 04, 2004

The MESSENGER spacecraft lifted off on-time aboard a Boeing Delta II rocket from pad 17-B at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., at 2:15:56.537 a.m. EDT. MESSENGER has successfully begun its mission to u ...

NASA rescheduled MESSENGER start to Mercury to August 3

Aug 02, 2004

Today's launch of the MESSENGER spacecraft has been canceled due to weather constraints. The launch team will try again tomorrow, August 3, at 2:15:56 a.m. MESSENGER is a scientific investigation of the planet ...

Europe's Mercury mission swings into action

Jan 18, 2008

The European Space Agency (ESA) signalled the start of a busy period for the planet Mercury, when it signed the contract for industrial development to start for the BepiColombo mission today (18th January ...

MESSENGER Returns Images from Oct. 6 Mercury Fly-By

Oct 07, 2008

MESSENGER is the first mission sent to orbit the planet closest to the sun. On Oct. 6, 2008, at roughly 4:40 a.m. ET, MESSENGER flew by Mercury for the second time this year. During the encounter, the probe ...

Recommended for you

Total lunar eclipse before dawn on April 4th

18 hours ago

An unusually brief total eclipse of the Moon will be visible before dawn this Saturday, April 4th, from western North America. The eclipse happens on Saturday evening for Australia and East Asia.

Cassini: Return to Rhea

Mar 30, 2015

After a couple of years in high-inclination orbits that limited its ability to encounter Saturn's moons, NASA's Cassini spacecraft returned to Saturn's equatorial plane in March 2015.

Comet dust—planet Mercury's 'invisible paint'

Mar 30, 2015

A team of scientists has a new explanation for the planet Mercury's dark, barely reflective surface. In a paper published in Nature Geoscience, the researchers suggest that a steady dusting of carbon from p ...

It's 'full spin ahead' for NASA soil moisture mapper

Mar 30, 2015

The 20-foot (6-meter) "golden lasso" reflector antenna atop NASA's new Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) observatory is now ready to wrangle up high-resolution global soil moisture data, following the successful ...

What drives the solar cycle?

Mar 30, 2015

You can be thankful that we bask in the glow of a relatively placid star. Currently about halfway along its 10 billion year career on the Main Sequence, our sun fuses hydrogen into helium in a battle against ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (2) Sep 15, 2011
Because of budgetary constraints, plans to add a small lander, the Mercury Surface Element (MSE), have been scrapped.

hilarious, so now its just another pointless orbiter mission.

What's the point anyway?

We've sent basic probes in the past, and they're useless.

Wow. It's a hot rock, and will never be safe to mine or anything else like that.

It's not like you're going to discover some new revolution in physics by sending multiple extra probes to Mercury.

You wont solve the theory of everything there, and you won't find the higgs, and you won't find a way to sythesize anti-matter, and you won't find time travel or warp propulsion, or anything useful in finding any of those things either.

So what's the big deal?

It's wasting all this time and money on a science mission that is extremely, EXTREMELY unlikely to provide any new discovery of any significant economic value, if anything whatsoever, besides some statistic in a wikipedia article....
1 / 5 (2) Sep 15, 2011
That's about all this mission will do...

...add another paragraph or two to the wikipedia article on "Mercury", but not provide one damn thing that benefits any of the citizens who paid for this program with tax payers money. Not only that, but the tax payers paid for these programs, but the companies and organizations who got the contracts to build all this stuff owns all the patents on the technologies, and the "investors" who were the tax payers, got none of the "rights" to it.

Everybody is a fricken serf for the contractors for government space programs.

Nobody has ever invented something based on a discovery made in space through space exploration. not even one thing.

GPS and satellites don't count, since GPS is based on relativity, which was known before the space age even began, and has little to do with planetary exploration, and regular satellites were always part of the plan of the early space age anyway, before exploration even began...

so what's the point?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.