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  1. ITV Report

Space mission aims to unlock Mercury's mysteries

  • Video report by ITV News Science Correspondent Alok Jha

A pioneering research mission to Mercury is aiming to unlock some of the planet's mysteries.

Mercury is the smallest planet in our solar system and also the least studied.

It is known to have temperatures that can reach up to 800 degrees Fahrenheit (430c) on its surface - but the planet also has ice.

Now a joint Japanese and European mission hopes to shed new light on this strange and relatively little-known planet.

The BepiColombo probe will set off next year and spend at least a year spinning in Mercury's orbit and collecting data.

The research vessel completes its final tests ahead of its mission to Mercury. Credit: ESA

The vessel is made of two probes that will split when it arrives at Mercury.

The European section will study the planet's surface and its composition, while a Japanese orbiter will fly higher up to examine its unusual magnetic field.

The spacecraft has been in development for decades in a challenging mission.

It must travel 48 million miles to its destination, and will also have to withstand blistering heat and radiation on the planet closest to the sun.

BepiColombo is due to launch next year and will take seven years to arrive - but once it does the data it beams back could transform our understanding of Mercury.