Japanese and European space agencies have successfully launched a rocket carrying two robotic explorers on a joint mission to Mercury.The Arianne 5 rocket lifted off from the space center in French Guiana on Friday, local time, and entered its planned orbit about 27 minutes later.
The two probes are scheduled to reach their destination in December 2025.The surface of the Japanese probe MIO, a 1.8-meter wide octagonal column, is partly covered by mirrors to protect it from the sun.
MIO is the first Japanese probe to explore Mercury. It will spend a year in orbit exploring the planet’s magnetic field and atmosphere. The European probe MPO will use sensors to observe the planet’s terrain and mineral contents.
Previously only two probes, both American, have explored Mercury.