BepiColombo bids farewell to Earth en route to Mercury
The BepiColombo mission, launched in October 2018, consists of the European Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO), the Japanese Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (Mio) and the ESA-made Mercury Transfer Module (MTM). The three spacecraft cruise through the Solar System as a stack. On their seven year journey to Mercury, the Solar System's innermost planet, the spacecraft have to perform nine gravity-assist manoeuvres to adjust their trajectory. The first of those manoeuvres, the flyby at Earth, brings BepiColombo to the distance of only 12 700 km away from Earth's surface, which is less than a half of the orbit altitude of Europe's navigational satellites Galileo. BepiColombo's closest approach on 10 April 2020 at 06:25 CEST could be observed with small telescopes by amateur astronomers located in southern latitudes. While astronomers in southern Europe could catch a brief glimpse of BepiColombo, the southern hemisphere provides the best view of the flyby.