BERLIN (AP) – Two spaceships will fly past Venus in a matter of hours this week, using the maneuver to do a little extra science on their way to their main missions in the center of our solar system.
The Solar Orbiter probe of the European Space Agency ESA, a cooperation with NASA, will orbit Venus early Monday and use the planet’s gravity to set it on a course to observe the solar poles.
About 33 hours later, the European-Japanese BepiColombo spacecraft will get even closer to Venus in a maneuver designed to help it slow down sharply and safely steer it into Mercury’s orbit in 2025.
“Without the flyby we would not be able to reach our target planet,” said Elsa Montagnon, the operations manager of the space probe at BepiColombo. “The energy required to get into orbit of Mercury would be prohibitive in terms of fuel.”
Both probes have numerous scientific instruments on board, some of which are intended to be used to take a closer look at Venus as it flies by.
The measurements will complement those of the Japanese Akatsuki probe, which is already in orbit around Earth’s hotter neighbor. NASA and the European Space Agency plan to send three more missions to Venus towards the end of the decade.
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