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Japan, Europe launch space probes to survey Mercury

Japanese and European space agencies on Friday launched a rocket carrying two robotic explorers on a seven-year journey to Mercury.

Leaving French Giana on an Ariane 5 rocket, the space probes — one developed by the Japan Space Exploration Agency and another by the European Space Agency — are designed to travel 9 billion kilometers to the planet closest to the sun and orbit around it to collect data for about a year.

JAXA’s Mercury Magnetosphere Orbiter Mio, an octagonal column-shaped probe with a long antenna, is scheduled to survey magnetic fields on the planet and its thin atmosphere, while ESA’s Mercury Planetary Orbiter, equipped with cameras and an altimeter, will check the terrain and minerals.

So far, only two space probes, both from the United States, have surveyed Mercury. Mariner 10 surveyed the planet between 1974 and 1975, and Messenger between 2011 and 2015.

The latest mission by the Japan-Europe team, named BepiColombo after a mathematician who contributed to Mariner expedition, is intended to reveal the mysterious history of Mercury’s formation and its internal structure.

All — Kyodo News+

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