Earth and the Moon are seen by one of the selfie cameras onboard the European-Japanese Mercury-explorer BepiColombo in early March 2020. The camera (M-CAM 3) took the images from a distance of around 14 million kilometers, during the spacecraft’s approach toward its mother planet ahead of the gravity assist flyby scheduled on April 10, 2020.
During the flyby, BepiColombo will come as close as 12,700 kilometers to Earth’s surface, which is closer than the orbital altitude of the European navigational satellites Galileo. The cameras will keep taking images throughout the manoeuvre, which will adjust BepiColombo’s trajectory and send it deeper inside the Solar System.
On its seven-year journey to Mercury, BepiColombo takes advantage of the gravity of Earth, Venus and Mercury to adjust its trajectory and reach its final orbit. Launched in 2018, the spacecraft performs overall nine gravity assist flyby manoeuvres (depicted in this animation), before entering orbit around the Solar System’s innermost planet in December 2025.
Image Credit: ESA/BepiColombo/MTM