August 9, 2021 3:14:28 pm
Two spacecraft are set to swoop past Venus within hours of each other this week, using the maneuver to do a little bit of bonus science on the way to their main missions at the center of our solar system.
The European Space Agency’s Solar Orbiter probe, a cooperation with NASA, completed the flyby around Venus early Monday, using the planet’s gravity to help put it on a course to observe the Sun’s poles.
In case you weren’t up as early as us this morning @ESASolarOrbiter completed its second #VenusFlyby before breakfast 😉 Next up: @bepicolombo! We’ll be having a lunchtime @TwitterSpaces chat with @esaoperations to hear more. Listen in here at 13:00 CEST https://t.co/T8x6G199xV pic.twitter.com/nBS8Zs1UUj
— ESA Science (@esascience) August 9, 2021
About 33 hours later, the European-Japanese spacecraft BepiColombo will get even closer to Venus in a maneuver designed to help it slow down sharply and safely steer into the orbit of Mercury in 2025.
“Without the flyby, we would not be able to reach our target planet,” said Elsa Montagnon, the spacecraft operations manager for BepiColombo. “The energy required to enter into orbit of Mercury would be prohibitively expensive in terms of propellant.”
⏳We’re counting down to our #VenusFlyby on Tuesday, setting us on course for our first #Mercury encounter in October! We’ll make six #MercuryFlyby in total, before entering orbit in 2025. https://t.co/kWLD5OYGej pic.twitter.com/NOd3j2IMoF
— BepiColombo (@BepiColombo) August 5, 2021
Both probes have numerous scientific instruments on board, some of which will be used to take a closer look at Venus as they zoom past.
The measurements will add to those taken by the Japanese probe Akatsuki, which is already in orbit around Earth’s hotter neighbor. NASA and the European Space Agency are planning to send three more missions to Venus toward the end of the decade.
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