Scientists on the ESA's first mission to Mercury have confirmed the outgoing BepiColombo spacecraft's imaging instruments are in working order, with the probe snapping its first selfies and successfully returning them to Earth.
The BepiColombo spacecraft lifted off on Saturday atop an Ariane 5 booster, a successful beginning to its 240-million-km (149-million-mi) journey to the closest planet to the Sun.
Within hours of the launch, the spacecraft began deploying its pair of 15-meter (50-ft) solar wings that will power its onboard instruments, along with the antennas it will use to transmit data to Earth.
This enabled the spacecraft to fire up its three monitoring cameras, which are equipped to take black and white images at a resolution of 1024 x 1024 pixels. One of these captured a deployed solar wing, while the others snapped the medium- and high-gain antennas.
These cameras will do more than take self-portraits as the spacecraft cruises toward Mercury. While en route, they will also gather images during flybys of Earth, Venus and of course, its final destination as it hurtles into the neighborhood.
It will also deploy a pair of Mercury orbiters to investigate the planet's structure, magnetic field and learn more about its almost non-existent atmosphere. All going to plan, these will enter orbit in December 2025.
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