A spacecraft is about to slingshot around Venus, putting it on course for Mercury

A joint European and Japanese spacecraft is about to slingshot around the planet Venus, performing a short gravitational dance that will change the vehicle’s course through space. This critical maneuver will take place just before midnight Eastern Time, and the spacecraft has to nail its routine in order to reach its ultimate destination — Mercury — within the next five years.

The spacecraft making this planetary swing is BepiColombo, which is really two spacecraft wrapped into one. The vehicle consists of one spacecraft overseen by the European Space Agency and another overseen by the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency. Once they reach Mercury, the spacecraft will separate and independently orbit the tiny world, gathering data about…

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