The scientific objectives behind BepiColombo can be viewed by considering the following 12 questions:
- What can we learn from Mercury about the composition of the solar nebula and the formation of the planetary system?
- Why is Mercury's normalized density markedly higher than that of all other terrestrial planets, Moon included?
- Is the core of Mercury liquid or solid?
- Is Mercury tectonically active today?
- Why does such a small planet possess an intrinsic magnetic field, while Venus, Mars and the Moon do not have any?
- Why do spectroscopic observations not reveal the presence of any iron, while this element is supposedly the major constituent of Mercury?
- Do the permanently shadowed craters of the polar regions contain sulphur or water ice?
- Is the unseen hemisphere of Mercury markedly different from that imaged by Mariner 10?
- What are the production mechanisms of the exosphere?
- In the absence of any ionosphere, how does the magnetic field interact with the solar wind?
- Is Mercury's magnetised environment characterised by features reminiscent of the aurorae, radiation belts and magnetospheric substorms observed at Earth?
- Since the advance of Mercury's perihelion was explained in terms of space-time curvature, can we take advantage of the proximity of the Sun to test general relativity with improved accuracy?