The ESA launched a mission for Mercury known as the ‘BepiColombo mission’ back in 2018 but it’s seemed to have hung around Earth for a bit longer than you might have expected. This interesting spacecraft actually looped around the Earth and in that process, it got some quite eerie images of our home planet.
The ESA released these images earlier this month as the BepiColombo mission completed its first flyby on the 10th of April. They as you can see show our planet ‘shining through darkness’ this during easily some of the most frustrating times we’ve had as of late considering the pandemic is still something we’re facing. They almost seem to reflect what we’re all feeling/experiencing right now and it’s quite chilling to see.
From here BepiColombo mission will make its way towards the final destination and is as you would imagine, onto very big things. BepiColombo is on a seven-year journey according to the ESA and will be visiting Mercury to learn more about our Solar System itself and perhaps even how it was formed. While that might not sound like much, it has huge potential.
The ESA wrote as follows on BepiColombo’s mission:
Today’s operation is the first of nine flybys which, together with the onboard solar propulsion system, will help the spacecraft reach its target orbit around Mercury. The next two flybys will take place at Venus and further six at Mercury itself
While the manoeuvre took advantage of Earth’s gravity to adjust the path of the spacecraft and did not require any active operations, such as firing thrusters, it included 34 critical minutes shortly after BepiColombo’s closest approach to our planet, when the spacecraft flew across the shadow of Earth.
“This eclipse phase was the most delicate part of the flyby, with the spacecraft passing through the shadow of our planet and not receiving any direct sunlight for the first time after launch,” said Elsa Montagnon, BepiColombo Spacecraft Operations Manager for ESA.
To prepare for the scheduled eclipse, mission operators fully charged the spacecraft batteries and warmed up all components in advance, then closely monitored the temperature of all onboard systems during the period in darkness, between 07:01 and 07:35 CEST.
“It is always nerve-wracking to know a spacecraft’s solar panels are not bathed in sunlight. When we saw the solar cells had restarted to generate electrical current, we knew BepiColombo was finally out of Earth’s shadow and ready to proceed on its interplanetary journey,” added Elsa.
This flyby went well and as you can see below, these images are truly something else. What do you think when you look at them? I for one am blown away entirely.
If you want to learn more about all of this check out the videos below. Isn’t it amazing what we can do outside of our world? Space is truly a place full of mystery.