Another Day, Another Space Mission

Feels like we have another launch or space probe every couple weeks now, yeah?

BepiColumbo is on its way to Mercury after launch last night:

The crazy thing about this mission is the length of time it takes to actually reach Mercury despite the fact that it’s a little more than half the distance to Mars.

Turns out it’s really crazy hard to hit the orbit of a planet that’s so close to the Sun. Without enough energy, you’ll flyby without making orbit and get picked up by the Sun’s intense gravity.

Bepi will spend the next couple years circling the inner solar system to slingshot its way to more and more energy. First Mercury flyby isn’t until 2021 (!) and even then it spends the next four years adjusting itself before finally reaching proper orbit in 2025.