New Mission to Mercury Approved

A key Japanese government committee has approved a joint Japanese/European mission to the planet Mercury. BepiColombo, named after the late Italian astronomer who worked on the previous mission to Mercury, is expected to launch in 2010 and will contain an orbiter and a lander which will penetrate the surface of the planet. The European Space Agency had committed to the project three years ago, but the Japanese government has yet to supply its share of the funds. This will be the first mission to Mercury since Mariner 10, which went in the 1970s.