Hot dates: 2 spacecraft to make Venus flyby

NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft captured Venus on June 5, 2007. NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft captured Venus on June 5, 2007. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Carnegie Institution of WashingtonTwo spacecraft will pass Venus in hours. They will use the maneuver to perform bonus science along the way to their main missions in the center of the solar system.In cooperation with NASA, the European Space Agency's Solar Orbiter probe will circle Venus Monday morning. It will use the planet's gravity as a guide to place it on a course to observe its poles.The European-Japanese spacecraft BepiColombo will approach Venus 33 hours later in a maneuver that will help it slow down and steer safely into the orbit Mercury in 2025.Elsa Montagnon is the BepiColombo spacecraft operations manager. "Without the flyby we wouldn't be able to achieve our target planet," she said. "The propellant and energy needed to orbit Mercury would be prohibitively costly."Each probe has a variety of scientific instruments aboard, including some that will be used to get a better look at Venus as they zoom past.These measurements will be added to the ones taken by the Japanese probe Akatsuki which orbits Earth's hotter neighbour. NASA and the European Space Agency plan to send three additional missions to Venus towards the end of this decade.Learn more ESA prepares for Venus flyby2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. Without permission, this material may not be broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.