BepiColombo Images Venus During Close Approach for Gravity Assist

BepiColombo Venus

BepiColombo captured this view of Venus using the Mercury Transfer Module’s Monitoring Camera 2 on October 15, 2020, as the spacecraft passed the planet for a gravity assist maneuver. Credit: ESA/BepiColombo/MTM, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

The joint European-Japanese BepiColombo mission captured this view of Venus on October 15, 2020, as the spacecraft passed the planet for a gravity assist maneuver.

The image was taken at 03:37 UTC by the Mercury Transfer Module’s Monitoring Camera 2, shortly before closest approach at 03:58 UTC. 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. At the time of the image being taken, the spacecraft was within 14 000 km from Venus.

The cameras provide black-and-white snapshots in 1024 x 1024 pixel resolution. The image has been lightly processed to enhance the brightness and contrast.

The maneuver, the first at Venus and the second of nine flybys overall, helped steer the spacecraft on course for Mercury. During its seven-year cruise to the smallest and innermost planet of the Solar System, BepiColombo makes one flyby at Earth, two at Venus and six at Mercury to brake against the gravitational pull of the Sun in order to enter orbit around Mercury. BepiColombo, which comprises ESA’s Mercury Planetary Orbiter and the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), is scheduled to reach its target orbit around the smallest and innermost planet of the Solar System in 2025.

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