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On Its Way To Mercury, This European Space Probe Just Swung By Venus

The European Space Agency's first mission to Mercury blasts off with a trio of crafts on October 19, 2018. BepiColombo passed by Venus on its way to Mercury Tuesday morning.
The European Space Agency's first mission to Mercury blasts off with a trio of crafts on October 19, 2018. BepiColombo passed by Venus on its way to Mercury Tuesday morning.

The European Space Agency probe BepiColombo is scheduled to go into orbit around Mercury in 2025.

But to reach the innermost planet in the solar system, BepiColombo needs a gravity assist from neighboring Venus, so it flew within 350 miles of the planet today at around 9:48 am ET on its way to Mercury.

Earlier this week, another European space probe, called Solar Orbiter, also had a brush with Venus: That spacecraft came with 5,000 miles of the planet.

Neither probe will train its main science cameras on Venus during the fly-bys. The Solar Orbiter had to remain facing the Sun, and BepiColombo's camera won't be deployed until it reaches Mercury.

Two engineering cameras on that probe will be able to send black and white pictures back to Earth in the coming days.


This story originally appeared on the Morning Edition live blog.

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