Mercury-bound spacecraft buzzes Earth, beams back pictures
April 10, 2020
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — A Mercury-bound spacecraft swooped past Earth on Friday, tweaking its roundabout path to the solar system's smallest and innermost planet.
Launched 1 1/2 years ago, Europe and Japan's BepiColombo spacecraft passed within 8,000 miles (12,700 kilometers) of Earth. The closest approach occurred over the South Atlantic, with telescopes in Chile catching a glimpse of the speeding spacecraft.
The gravity tug from Earth slowed BepiColombo and put it on a course closer to the sun.
It was the first of nine planetary gravity assists — and the only one involving Eart...