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Space Probe Makes 1st Venus Fly-By On Way To Mercury

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This image provided on Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020 by the European Space Agency (ESA) taken by the Mercury Transfer Module’s Monitoring Camera 2, shows the closest approach to Venus. The medium-gain antenna of the Mercury Planetary Orbiter is visible at the top of the image, along with the magnetometer boom, which extends from the top right of the frame. A spacecraft bound for Mercury swung by Venus on Thursday, using Earth’s neighbor to adjust its course on the way to the solar system’s smallest and innermost planet. (European Space Agency ESA via AP)

(AP) — A spacecraft bound for Mercury has swung by Venus, using Earth’s neighbor to adjust its course on the way to the solar system’s smallest and innermost planet. Launched almost two years ago, the European-Japanese probe BepiColombo took a black-and-white snapshot of Venus from a distance of 10,560 miles. The fly-by is the second of nine so-called planetary gravity assists that the spacecraft needs for its seven-year trip to Mercury. BepiColombo will make one more fly-by of Venus and six of Mercury itself to slow down before its arrival in 2025. Researchers hope the BepiColombo mission will help them understand more about Mercury, which is only slightly larger than Earth’s moon and has a massive iron core.

 

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