BepiColombo Spacecraft Skims Past Venus

Image captured by the BepiColombo mission on August 10, 2021, as the spacecraft passed Venus. Credit: ESA/BepiColombo/MTM, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

The joint European-Japanese BepiColombo mission captured this view of Venus on August 10, 2021, as the spacecraft passed the planet for a gravity assist maneuver.

The image was taken at 13:57:56 UTC by the Mercury Transfer Module’s Monitoring Camera 3, when the spacecraft was 1573 km from Venus. Closest approach of 552 km took place shortly before, at 13:51:54 UTC.

The cameras provide black-and-white snapshots in 1024 x 1024 pixel resolution. The image has been lightly processed to enhance contrast and use the full dynamic range. A small amount of optical vignetting is seen in the bottom left of the image.

The high-gain antenna of the Mercury Planetary Orbiter and part of the body of the spacecraft are visible in front of Venus, at top left.

The maneuver, the second at Venus and the third 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.  Its first Mercury flyby will take place October 1-2, 2021.

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.

AstronomyEuropean Space AgencyPlanetsVenus