2 comments

  • LocalFluff

    I’m sorry if I’m nitpicking. It’s much easier to do so on the keyboard than during a live radio interview. The smaller of the two orbiters is made in Japan by JAXA, I think they deserve honor for that. Their planetary missions are always very ambitious, often almost fail but are saved at least to some degree. They push the limits, not wasting too much on slack. I guess there’s a difference in organizational culture from NASA there.

    It will have a much more eccentric orbit to measure the magnetic field near and far, which is a very puzzling phenomena at Mercury since its southern magnetic pole is way inside of the planet. And it has a relatively huge iron nickel core. Uranus has a weirdly misaligned magnetic field too, and will most likely get its own NASA flagship mission soon. This could be practically very important to understand since Earth’s magnetic field shifts abruptly sometimes. No one knows why.

    So, first flyby of Mercury in October 2021, four years after launch, and then yearly flybys until entering orbit in December 2025.

    AFAIK JAXA and ESA both developed heat reflecting coatings, which seems to have been a big item in the mission development. Could probably have been done faster and less wastefully if better coordinated. But everyone involved wants to play with the cool toys himself, so that’s the incentive.

  • LocalFluff

    3 years after launch in 2018 October. Easy to make mistakes. Ariane 5 so it will launch safely and on time.

    While at it, I can add that they’ve finished the shake tests and are now unscrewing it all to check if something got damaged. Then there’s the electric tests and the heat test. They seem to have had to rebuild the lab for doing the heat test. The heat has really been a challenge. 10 times more sunlight than at Earth, and the heat reflected from Mercury seems to be the big difference from the further out orbiting MESSENGER mission.

    A potential rover on the surface could maybe hide in eternally shadowed polar craters daytime, and move during the 132 days long night. By moving away from the approaching terminator it could maybe even be moving around all of the time. A rover is next if BeppiColumbo is successful.

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