Mercury probe unveiled at the Science Museum

The latest mission to the planet Mercury – or rather, a near-exact replica of the probe that will be sent there later this year - touched down at London’s Science Museum this week. And two Leicester space scientists were there to welcome it.

Professor Emma Bunce and Dr Suzie Imber (pictured left to right) from our Department of Physics and Astronomy attended the unveiling of the new BepiColombo Structural Thermal Model exhibit at the Science Museum on 16 May. Professor Bunce is Principal Investigator and leads the international science team for BepiColombo’s MIXS instrument, which was designed and built at the University of Leicester – and Dr Imber is a member of the science team, and also the winner of the BBC’s recent Astronauts: Have You Got What It Takes? series. Both Emma and Suzie feature in the accompanying video to the new exhibit at the museum.

The 6 metre high model now on display was used to prove the fundamental design and feasibility of the mission. The joint mission between the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Japanese space agency (JAXA) is due to launch in October and will spend seven years travelling to Mercury where it will delve into the composition and history of the planet itself, as well as help to answer questions about the formation of the rocky planets of the solar system.

By measuring fluorescent X-rays from the surface, MIXS (Mercury Imaging X-ray Spectrometer) will provide a detailed analysis of the surface elemental composition of Mercury to aid our understanding of the planet’s evolution and formation processes. The MIXS data set will also provide information on surface-exosphere-magnetosphere interactions.