BepiColombo Blasts Off to Mercury
October 20, 2018

BepiColombo Blasts Off to Mercury

The ESA/JAXA BepiColombo mission blasted off from Kourou in French Guiana this morning to begin a seven year journey to Mercury. Dr Jörn Helbert, of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and member of the Europlanet team, has been out in Kourou and Indhu Varatharajan, of DLR and Chair of the Europlanet Early Careers (EPEC) network, has been at ESA’s Mission Control in Darmstadt to watch the launch.

In the countdown to the launch, Jörn told us, “MERTIS will launch with BepiColombo, an instrument I have been working on at DLR from the design phase in 2003. I was lucky enough to be part of an amazing team with incredible talented engineers, scientists and managers and I learned a lot – about designing a spectrometer, running teams and pushing science to the limits, and then a bit I also learned (sometimes the hard way) is how much “politics” comes into play and can interfere… So now I see one of my main jobs as (co) PI is to make sure my team can do their job without interferences. It’s so amazing to see and be part of the creative process … see it evolve from an idea to the MERTIS instrument that now sits on top of the Ariane 5 20 km from here!

“These days are a prime example of why I have my dream job – waiting for the BepiColombo launch in Kourou while working on the Envision Venus study, preparing next step of Europlanet and so much more… all that with an amazing team. For someone that never travelled outside of Germany until I was 18 I still find it amazing that I now have close colleagues and friends all across the globe and a team with currently 5 different nationalities.”

In Darmstadt, Indhu shared her experience of the atmosphere at mission control: “I should say that I expected huge cheers when BepiColombo disappeared into skies !! But loved the pin-drop silence in the room – I could feel that everyone was lost in the sight and feel of the launch in which they poured years of hard work ! I have seen many launches live before – but every second of “this” launch feels extremely special If 2 years of journey with BepiColombo can give me this intense feeling, I can’t even start to imagine the emotions of the mission team who is involved since 1993 (25 years)!”

Congratulations from Europlanet to everyone involved in the BepiColombo mission – we look forward to some exciting science when it reaches Mercury!

Follow and Jörn and Indhu on Twitter.