European Space Agency looks to Mercury in 2018

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(AP) -- Perhaps the highlight of 2018 for the European Space Agency will be the launch of BepiColombo in October.

The joint mission by ESA and Japan's aerospace agency is hoping to uncover the mysteries of Mercury, one of the least explored planets in our inner Solar System.

BepiColombo will study the small, inhospitable planet's structure and magnetic field. It will also assess how it interacts with the Sun and solar wind.

The spacecraft is composed of two modules, one to map the planet, the other to investigate its environment.

It will take seven years to reach Mercury. It's expected to arrive in December 2025.

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