Mission to Mercury honours Italian space scientist
( dpa ) - The first mission to the planet Mercury by the European Space Organization (ESO) is to set to blast off in five years and will be named in honour of Italian space pioneer "Bepi" Colombo.
Details of the craft were announced Friday in the German city of Friedrichshafen during a contract signing with Astrium, the satellites arm of aerospace company EADS.
The 351-million-euro probe is set to go into orbit round the Solar System's hottest planet in 2019.
Mathematician Giuseppe "Bepi" Colombo (1920-1984) did major calculations on the planet Mercury and how to send a spacecraft there with multiple fly-bys.
A camera on the Bepi Colombo will be able to distinguish features 50 metres across on Mercury's surface. A US probe, the Messenger, recently sent back coarser-grained pictures of the planet.
The Bepi Colombo, which faces searing heat from the sun and will be covered in a special ceramic-fibre insulation jacket, includes a European science module and its propulsion system.
A separate Japanese module will study Mercury's magnetic field and will survey it with five instruments.