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Japan And EU Plan Joint Mission To Mercury

timothy posted more than 11 years ago | from the ten-four-good-buddy dept.

Space 32

Devar writes "Japan and the European Space Agency have revealed their plans for a joint mission to Mercury that would be the first to land a probe on its surface. The mission also includes two orbiters to map the surface, all due to be launced in 2010."

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....... Puff... (4, Funny)

Hougaard (163563) | more than 11 years ago | (#6293436)

Did you see the smoke NASA ? :-)

Joint mission? (3, Funny)

jwriney (16598) | more than 11 years ago | (#6293659)

How the hell are you gonna keep it lit in space?

--riney

Re:Joint mission? (4, Informative)

mess31173 (462954) | more than 11 years ago | (#6294032)

Avg. Surface temp. (of mercury): Day 623 K Source [wikipedia.org]

That's hot enough to keep it lit. And get you fried, in this case, in more ways than one.

Re:Joint mission? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6294123)

unfortunately they'll be landing on the dark side with temperatures down to -180. Whitey!

Re:Joint mission? (1)

mess31173 (462954) | more than 11 years ago | (#6294204)

Maybe you weren't aware of this, I'm not sure, but unlike the moon, this planet rotates, so what comes after night? *wait for it* DAY! WEEEE!

Re:Joint mission? (5, Informative)

Scarblac (122480) | more than 11 years ago | (#6294371)

Firstly, of course the moon rotates as well. It just rotates at the same angular velocity at which it orbits Earth, so we always see the same face. This is caused by a process called tidal lock.

Mercury is in tidal lock with the sun. But because its trajectory is elliptical, it's not a 1:1 lock, but a 3:2 lock: there are 3 Mercury days in 2 Mercury years.

A Mercury day is 58.6 Earth days, a Mercury year is 88 Earth days, according to this fact sheet [the-solar-system.net] . 58.6 days should be enough for most missions.

Re:Joint mission? (2, Funny)

Some Dumbass... (192298) | more than 11 years ago | (#6306896)

58.6 days should be enough for most missions.

Oh sure, that's what you say now. But what about in the future when operating systems get larger and more complex? I predict that in 20 years it'll take 60+ days just to boot the OS on the probe. (At least if they're still using 8088 chips on those things)

Re:Joint mission? (0, Redundant)

spike hay (534165) | more than 11 years ago | (#6297760)

Maybe you weren't aware of this, I'm not sure, but unlike the moon, this planet rotates, so what comes after night? *wait for it* DAY! WEEEE!

Actually the moon, like all bodies, rotates just like Mercury. Like the Moon, Mercury's rotation is in sync with the Sun so the same side is always lit. You have one side that is always blazingly hot, one side that is freezing, freezing cold.

Re:Joint mission? (1)

barakn (641218) | more than 11 years ago | (#6299780)

Nice sig. If you disagree, reply, don't moderate. I disagree with your post. Mercury does not always keep the same side towards the sun. One side is hot and the other is cold because Mercury has no atmosphere, which would otherwise distribute the heat more evenly. Another poster replied to the same parent with the proper answer [slashdot.org] , and posted before you did. If I was a moderator, I'd mod your post Redundant so people would be more likely to see only the post with the correct information.

Re:Joint mission? (2, Informative)

RodgerDodger (575834) | more than 11 years ago | (#6307474)

Seesh, did you read the proper answer?

A) Mercury does rotate. However, your "proper answer" got it wrong; while Mercury rotates on its axis every 58.6 days, it's moved a long way around the sun in that same time. As a result, it's day (period between one sunrise and the next) takes longer than its rotation period [arizona.edu] . In fact, it takes about 3 rotations to get one 'day'. Also, because of the elliptical orbit and long rotation period, you can get a funky double-sunset effect [nasa.gov] , when the sun sets, then rises again in reverse before setting again.

B) Mercury does so have an atmosphere [the-solar-system.net] . The atmosphere is, on average, about 440K; quite hot enough. The night side is cold, not because there is no atmosphere, but because the atmosphere is so thin it radiates the heat away into space very fast. Mercury actually has a very turbulent convenction system, especially around the terminator line.

We'll see ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6294023)

Let's see if they can make it to Mars [slashdot.org] first. :)

I guess nobody cares. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6294025)

No one is commenting on this thread. Not even a joke about sending a probe to uranus. What gives? I suspect that the Mercury probe will get caught in the sun's gravity, and will never reach the planet. It will only burn up.

FP (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6294485)

FIRST PLANET!

Word not found... (2, Funny)

jpsst34 (582349) | more than 11 years ago | (#6294520)

The word you've entered isn't in the dictionary. Click on a spelling suggestion below or try again using the Dictionary search box to the right.

Suggestions for launced:

1. lensed [m-w.com]
2. lanced [m-w.com]
3. linseed [m-w.com]
4. launched [m-w.com]
5. launces [m-w.com]
6. lancer [m-w.com]
7. leaned [m-w.com]
8. launce [m-w.com]
9. lenses [m-w.com]
10. leanest [m-w.com]
11. leanness [m-w.com]
12. lancet [m-w.com]

Re:Word not found... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6319299)

Biggest dork EVER.

Second mission to Mercury. (1)

Eevee (535658) | more than 11 years ago | (#6294760)

According to the article, NASA is planning on launching a probe in '04. But we all know it's going to end up hitting Venus on the way in.

Why Mercury? (1)

chia_monkey (593501) | more than 11 years ago | (#6295052)

Why did they choose Mercury? Don't get me wrong, I think it's pretty cool, but why not some of the other planets in our system? Scientists are fascinated with Mars because of the possibility of life. There's fascination about Saturn and it having a bazillion moons. Jupiter with it's nutty red spot (man that's a hell of a storm).

So why Mercury? Especially considering the difference between the hottest daytime temps and the coldest night temps...

This has me on curiosity alone.

Re:Why Mercury? (5, Informative)

Paul Neubauer (86753) | more than 11 years ago | (#6295513)

There have been many missions to Venus and Mars, a few flybys of Jupiter (and Galileo orbiting Jupiter). Saturn and beyond have only flybys so far, but it takes a long time to get to them. Mercury is relatively close, is close to the sun so solar power can be used (avoiding silly controversy over nuclear power sources) and has only had one spacecraft look at it, from mainly one angle. Also, it's not the moon, but a "new" world to explore. All in all, it's a nice place to send a few robots to prove one's technology and show off, and get useful new results in a reasonable amount of time.

Re:Why Mercury? (2, Informative)

darkwhite (139802) | more than 11 years ago | (#6299554)

All in all, it's a nice place to send a few robots to prove one's technology and show off

It is, the only problem being that it's really, really hot. As far as I understand, you have to have a reflective shield turned to the Sun at all times, and even so, your electronics are in for a very rough ride. This makes soft-landing much harder for surface probes, unless you land on the shaded side. Impact landing should be easier, but doesn't collect nearly as much information. Even worse, once you soft-land, you'll have to shield yourself from both the Sun and the ground, which makes rovers all but impossible, and soil sampling hard, too. (But if you land on the shaded side, those problems should go away.)

Also, it takes half a year to fly to Mars, but Mercury requires an elaborate orbit injection trajectory: the MESSENGER probe will spend 4 years before injection. So in terms of PR returns, it's probably better to keep sending stuff to Mars, especially because there's more to explore there. (Certainly no carbon-based life on Mercury, except maybe in craters with permanent shadow...)

Re:Why Mercury? (4, Informative)

FlexAgain (26958) | more than 11 years ago | (#6295853)

Why did they choose Mercury? Don't get me wrong, I think it's pretty cool, but why not some of the other planets in our system? Scientists are fascinated with Mars because of the possibility of life. There's fascination about Saturn and it having a bazillion moons. Jupiter with it's nutty red spot (man that's a hell of a storm).

Well, at the moment, ESA has a mission going to Mars (Mars Express), Venus shortly (Venus Express), Saturn is covered by Huygens (in combination with Cassini).

Nothing is going to Jupiter, Uranus, Neptune, or Pluto at the moment, but most of those are real buggers to get to easily.

Mercury is the only planet in the inner solar system which ESA hasn't sent anything to yet (or is about to). Add to that the fact that so little is known about it, Mariner 10 left many questions unanswered, and it's about time we had a look.

Re:Why Mercury? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6299442)

"Nothing is going to ... Uranus ... at the moment" ...

No. Too easy.

Re:Why Mercury? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6299962)

So....

Uranus is a real bugger...?

Re:Why Mercury? (3, Informative)

cjabaley (606108) | more than 11 years ago | (#6297979)

For a low cost mission Mercury is probably your best bet. There's no atmosphere to speak of, and external propulsion won't have to be terribly elaborate, because the sun's gravity will do most of the work. Also, as the two posters above me mentioned, very little has been studied about Mercury. On a more scientific note, mercury is the perfect place to study the effects of extreme heat and gravity on a planet and the inorganic substances that exist there. Moreover, it can provide more information about the level of radiation bombardment that could be expected for objects passing close to the sun.

Re:Why Mercury? (1)

boogy nightmare (207669) | more than 11 years ago | (#6302714)

Becuase quite frankly once you've heard 'We will rock you' , 'Radio Ga Ga' and 'Who Wants To Live Forever' and the immortal 'Bohemian Rhapsody' there could not be another choice.

If you dont get it...age.. its the only way

S

Re:Why Mercury? (2, Insightful)

Tackhead (54550) | more than 11 years ago | (#6303329)

> So why Mercury? Especially considering the difference between the hottest daytime temps and the coldest night temps...
>
> This has me on curiosity alone.

I think you just answered your own question: Curiosity alone.

Off the top of my head, the insane spread between day/night temperatures would probably allow us to learn a lot about Mercury's composition by watching the rocks cool.

I'd imagine they can also learn a lot about the sun during the approach and insertion/landing phase.

Not do diss astrobiologists, but hey, there's more to space science than astrobiology.

For instance, if I could break any law of physics I wanted to, I'd take a vacation to admire the view from any planet (not that any planets are likely to have remained in orbit!) around this [govertschilling.nl] star... as it dives to within 17 light-hours of a 2.6-million-solar-mass black hole at 2.5% of the speed of light?

BepiColombo (3, Informative)

FlexAgain (26958) | more than 11 years ago | (#6295661)

Even though they don't mention the name, this sounds likes they are talking about BepiColombo [esa.int] which has been in the works for several years now.

One of the more exciting bit about the mission is the lander (or impactor, depending) which is one of the things which distinguishes it from the US Messenger. Unfortunately, this is also one of the elements most likely to be removed, due to cost and complexity.

Re:BepiColombo (3, Funny)

wowbagger (69688) | more than 11 years ago | (#6297969)

So, the probe will go to Mecury, circle 'round it, inspect it, and start to leave.

Then it will turn around, and say,

"There's just one thing that puzzles me, sir..."

Re:BepiColombo (1)

motown (178312) | more than 11 years ago | (#6299489)

Let's hope it doesn't try to use that same old car to get there. If it does, then ESA must have some really serious budget problems. ;)

Re:BepiColombo (1)

wowbagger (69688) | more than 11 years ago | (#6299824)

Also, they will probably lose half the cameras....

Re:BepiColombo (2, Funny)

Alsee (515537) | more than 11 years ago | (#6299530)

One of the more exciting bit about the mission is the lander (or impactor, depending)

No sir, the mission didn't fail. We just had an unexpected revision in mission type.

-

ahhh (1)

namco (685026) | more than 11 years ago | (#6309803)

looks like the japanese are trying to acquire western space technology so they can dominate the 'market' - again!
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