Europe Approves its Mercury Mission

Artist impression of BepiColumbo. Image credit: ESAAlthough NASA has its Messenger spacecraft headed towards the planet Mercury, the European Space Agency is planning a mission of its own called BepiColumbo. The agency recently announced that it has “adopted” the BepiColumbo mission, officially greenlighting its development.

Developed in partnership with Japan, BepiColumbo is scheduled to launch in August 2013, and will arrive 6 years later. The mission actually consists of two spacecraft: an orbiter for planetary studies, and another for magnetospheric studies.

The Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO) will be developed by ESA, while the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO) will be created by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). A single vehicle will carry both to Mercury.

After their scientific missions wrap up, the two spacecraft will provide the most detailed study of Mercury ever performed.

Original Source: ESA News Release