Japan, European Space Probes Begin 7-Year Journey to Mercury

Science Society Technology

Tokyo, Oct. 20 (Jiji Press)--The Japanese and European space agencies on Saturday launched a rocket carrying two explorers on a seven-year journey to Mercury in a joint mission to investigate the mysteries of the closest planet to the sun.

The Ariane 5 rocket blasted off from the Kourou spaceport in French Guiana at 10:45 a.m. Japan time (1:45 a.m. GMT).

The two orbiters--the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter, called Mio, developed by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the Mercury Planetary Orbiter made by the European Space Agency, are slated to enter orbit around Mercury at the end of 2025.

Mercury is the smallest planet in the solar system, with a diameter of 4,880 kilometers, about 40 pct the size of Earth.

Mercury has virtually no atmosphere, and its cratered surface looks like the moon. But it has a magnetic field just like Earth.

[Copyright The Jiji Press, Ltd.]

Jiji Press