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Figure 1.1: Emblem of

Figure 1.1: Emblem of the BepiColombo mission. 1 – INTRODUCTION Japanese space agency ISAS/JAXA will contribute the other, the Mercury Magneto- spheric Orbiter (MMO). The MPO will study the surface and internal composition of the planet and the MMO will study Mercury’s magnetosphere, the region of space around the planet that is dominated by its magnetic field. 1.1.2 Technological Challenges With two spacecrafts, BepiColombo is a large and costly mission, one of the corner- stones in ESA’s long-term science programme. The mission presents enormous, but exciting challenges. All of ESA’s previous interplanetary missions have been to rela- tively cold parts of the solar system. BepiColombo will be the agency’s first experience of sending a spacecraft to hot regions. The journey from Earth to Mercury will also be a first. After launch into a geo- stationairy transfer orbit, the Mercury composite spacecraft will be boosted to the phasing orbit using chemical propulsion. From here the spacecraft will be set on its interplanetary trajectory through a flyby of the Moon. On its way to Mercury, the spacecraft must brake against the Sun’s gravity, which increases with proximity to the Sun, rather than accelerate away from it, as is the case with journeys to the outer Solar System. BepiColombo will accomplish this by making clever use of the gravity of the Earth, Venus and Mercury itself and by using solar electric propulsion. This innovative combination of low thrust space propulsion and gravity assist has been demonstrated by ESA’s technology mission SMART-1. When approaching Mercury, the spacecraft will use the planet’s gravity plus con- ventional rocket engines to insert itself into a polar orbit. A special weak stability boundary capturing technique is employed. This gives flexibility and is more robust 2

1 – INTRODUCTION against failures compared to using the more traditional “big kick” approach (single burn capture). The MMO will be released into its operational orbit, then the sunshield and the MMO interface structure will be separated while the chemical propulsion sys- tem will bring the MPO to its lower orbit. Observations from orbit will continue for one Earth year 2 . 1.2 MERTIS Instrument 1.2.1 Scientific Goals The scientific goal of the Mercury Radiometer and Thermal Infrared Spectrometer (MERTIS) is to provide detailed information about the mineralogical composition of Mercury’s surface layer by measuring the spectral emittance of different locations. Knowledge of the mineralogical composition is crucial for choosing the best of several competing theories, and thus for selecting the valid model for origin and evolution of the planet. MERTIS has four main scientific objectives, building on the general science objectives of the BepiColombo mission: • study of Mercury‘s surface composition, • identification of rock-forming minerals, • global mapping of the surface mineralogy and • study of surface temperatures and the thermal inertia. The instrument covers the range from 7 − 14 µm at a high spectral resolution of up to 90 nm which can be adapted depending on the actual surface properties to optimize the signal-to-noise ratio (S/N). MERTIS will globally map the planet with a spatial resolution of 500 m and a S/N of at least 100. The flexibility of the instrumental setup will allow to study the composition of the radar bright polar deposits for an assumed surface temperature of 200 K. 2 http://www.esa.int/esaSC/120391_index_0_m.html accessed on June 4, 2008. 3

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