Asked by Rolf Cooper
The next mission to be launched to a planet within our Solar System is the BepiColombo mission to Mercury. This is a joint project between ESA and JAXA (the European and Japanese space agencies).
The mission primarily aims to investigate the origin and evolution of the closest planet to the Sun, which we know so little about. It will gather important information about Mercury’s geology, composition, magnetic field and atmosphere.
In order to get there, BepiColombo will use a series of gravity-assisted flybys of Earth and Venus in conjunction with an electric ion drive. Due to launch in July 2016, the journey will take eight years before the spacecraft enters orbit.
Answered by Josh Barker at the National Space Centre
Image Credit: ESA