ESA engineers sweated big drops this weekend, but the hardest part is over: a year and a half after takeoff, the space probe Solar Orbiter – which has for mission to study our sun – passed closer to the Earth this weekend. The probe had to take advantage of the gravitational force of our planet to be in a way “propelled” towards the sun (like a gravitational catapult in short).
And when we say “as close as possible”, it is as close as possible: on the morning of November 27, the probe literally grazed the Earth, descending to an altitude of 500 kilometers, or an orbital zone teeming with debris. space, satellites in low orbit, not to mention the International Space Station! Faced with the risk of collision with debris, EA engineers monitored the path of the probe for an entire day. Everything went well in the end, and the probe was able to set off again in the direction of the sun. Next destination, Venus.