The BepiColombo has sent back a selfie from space. The spacecraft, which launched on Friday, Oct. 19, is currently on its way to Mercury.
The European Space Agency released the photo, which was snapped by one of the cameras onboard the spacecraft, over the weekend. It is the first official photo taken by the spacecraft from space.
Journey To Mercury
There is nothing spectacular happening in the photo — just the BepiColombo Mercury Transfer Module showing off the unusual view. Visible amidst the darkness of space are one of the spacecraft's sun sensors and its multi-layered insulation.
https://t.co/CX8HU65Bgo pic.twitter.com/80lG7AGxiq — MTM (@ESA_MTM) October 20, 2018
It also has two more monitoring cameras onboard to provide 1024 x 1024 pixel shots of its journey toward the innermost planet in the Solar System, according to the European Space Agency. The two other cameras have already been activated and are also expected to capture photos of the medium and high gain antennas onboard one of its satellites, the Mercury Planetary Orbiter.
The Mercury Planetary Orbiter is also equipped with high-resolution scientific cameras that will be operational once it separates from its companion satellite, the Mercury Magnetosphere Orbiter, upon arrival at Mercury.
The BepiColombo is a joint mission by the European Space Agency and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. The spacecraft was launched on Friday night at the French Guiana onboard the Ariane 5 rocket.
If all goes to plan, the BepiColombo is scheduled to arrive at Mercury by the latter half of 2025. It would take the spacecraft seven years to reach the closest planet to the Sun. However, it will have to take an elliptical path that involves a flyby of Earth and then of Venus to slow down before arriving at its destination.
Missions To Mercury
The BepiColombo is the first European mission that aims to explore the innermost planet of the Solar System. It, however, is the third spacecraft to visit Mercury.
The Mercury Planetary Orbiter will be tasked with mapping and imaging of the smallest and least explored planet in the Solar System. Meanwhile, the Mercury Magnetosphere Orbiter will be studying the planet's magnetic field and how it interacts with the Sun.