A common European-Japanese spacecraft returned its first images of Mercury, the closest planet to the sun.

The European Space Agency said the BepiColombo mission made the first of six flights on Mercury on Friday at 23:34 GMT, using the planet’s gravity to slow down the spacecraft.

After passing Mercury at altitudes less than 200 kilometers (125 miles), the ship captured a low-resolution black-and-white image with one of its surveillance cameras before taking off again.

Hello Mercury!

This amazing view was captured by part of the northern hemisphere of Mercury ESA_MTM After about 10 minutes # Mercury Approaching a distance of 2420 km. https://t.co/jjGKrsQXDH#ExploreFarther pic.twitter.com/EMhMJ5tKiN

– Bepi (ESA_Bepi) October 2, 2021

The European Space Agency said the image shows the distinctive features of the northern hemisphere and mercury, including the 166-kilometer-wide (103-mile-wide) Lermontov crater.

“The struggle has been impeccable in terms of the spacecraft and it’s amazing to finally see our target planet,” said Elsa Montagnion, the spacecraft’s director of operations for the mission.

The joint mission between the European Space Agency and the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency was launched in 2018 and flew once over Earth and twice over Venus on its journey to the smallest planet in the solar system.

The European Space Agency said the BepiColombo mission will study all aspects of Mercury from its basic processes to the surface, the magnetic field and the exosphere, “to better understand the origin and evolution of a planet close to its parent star.”

The mission aims to deliver two probes into Mercury’s orbit by the end of 2025.

The spacecraft cannot be sent directly to the planet because the Sun’s attraction is so strong that a massive braking maneuver is required to successfully position the satellite, which would require a lot of fuel for a ship of this size.

The gravity exerted by Earth and Venus – known as gravitational assistance – allows them to decelerate “naturally” during their journey.

Five more flights are needed before BepiColombo can be slowed down enough to launch the Mercury Planetary Orbiter and the JAXA Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter.

Farouk El-Baz, an astronomer at Boston University, described the successful flight as an “extraordinary moment.”

“It’s great because we used Mercury’s gravitational force to put the spacecraft close enough so we could see the images,” he told Al Jazeera.

“We haven’t been there for a long time and only two missions have visited Mercury before, so we expect enough information. We know that there could be little water left, traces in the polar regions, in areas where we never see the sun. But we’re not sure about that. “

“We hope that this mission will show us if there is so little water in the polar regions, where I never see the sun, where it is very cold and very cold. But the planet moves around the sun very fast. It orbits the sun in 88 days. So it is completely different from other planets. So we need to know what it is composed of, how it evolved and whether or not it has a gravitational field. “

The mission is named after the Italian scientist Giuseppe “Pepe” Colombo, who is credited with developing the gravitational assistance maneuver first used by NASA Mariner 10 when it flew in Mercury in 1974.

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