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An international program for Mercury exploration: synergy of MESSENGER and BepiColombo

An international program for Mercury exploration: synergy of MESSENGER and BepiColombo

Publication date: 20 January 2004

Authors: McNutt, R.L. Jr., et al.

Journal: Advances in Space Research
Volume: 33
Issue: 12
Page: 2126-2132
Year: 2004

Copyright: COSPAR

Mariner 10 has been the only spacecraft to visit the innermost planet Mercury. Its three flybys, more than 25 years ago, yielded the first view of this little-understood world. With advances in spacecraft technology and a growing realization of how important Mercury is to our understanding of the solar system and its formation, two missions are now in development for more intensive Mercury exploration. The first is the MESSENGER (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging) mission, competitively selected under the NASA Discovery Program, that will send a spacecraft to fly by Mercury in 2007 and 2008 and to orbit Mercury for one Earth year beginning in April 2009. The second is the more comprehensive BepiColombo mission, consisting of three elements: the Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO), the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO), and the Mercury Surface Element (MSE). Still in final definition stage, BepiColombo is a partnership between the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Japanese Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS). With one or two launches (depending upon the final mission architecture) BepiColombo will use solar electric propulsion to send two orbiters (MPO from ESA and MMO from ISAS) and a lander (MSE) to Mercury as early as 2011. The BepiColombo orbiters, in orbits complementary to that of MESSENGER, will extend geochemical, spectral, and photometric mapping of the planet. With its factor-of-ten larger downlink, BepiColombo will complete the intensive study of Mercury begun with the exploration by MESSENGER. Synergistic strategies of exploration will enable efficient use of BepiColombo resources in a more detailed study of the planet than can be accomplished by MESSENGER alone. - Remainder of abstract is truncated -

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