BERLIN — A spacecraft bound for Mercury has swung by Venus, using Earth’s neighbor to adjust its course on the way to the solar system’s smallest and innermost planet. Launched almost two years ago, the European-Japanese probe BepiColombo took a black-and-white snapshot of Venus from a distance of 10,560 miles. The fly-by is the second of nine so-called planetary gravity assists that the spacecraft needs for its seven-year trip to Mercury. BepiColombo will make one more fly-by of Venus and six of Mercury itself to slow down before its arrival in 2025. Researchers hope the BepiColombo mission will help them understand more about Mercury, which is only slightly larger than Earth’s moon and has a massive iron core.
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