But on Friday, the European Space Agency (ESA) will blast two orbiters to heavily cratered Mercury, the planet closest to the sun.
BepiColumbo's ion thrusters will be firing for 4.5 years, more than half the journey time.
"All great missions come with challenges: Airbus had to develop sophisticated thermal control solutions and even "special" solar arrays, capable of tilting 75 degrees away from the Sun to limit the temperature". During that time, the spacecraft will make one flyby of Earth, two of Venus, and six of Mercury before finally reaching its destination.
The European space Agency launched a mission BepiColombo, in partnership with the Japanese aerospace exploration Agency.
"Mercury doesn't really fit with our theories for how the Solar System formed, and we can't understand our planet fully unless we're able to explain Mercury as well", said Prof Dave Rothery, a Bepi scientist from the UK's Open University.
Once BepiColombo, which is named after an Italian scientist, arrives in late 2025, it will release two probes that will independently investigate the surface and magnetic field of Mercury. One year on Mercury is only 88 Earth days long, but a day-night cycle on the smallest planet lasts more than twice as long. This complicated trajectory is a outcome of Mercury's high orbital speed and proximity to the sun; Mercury-bound spacecraft have to thread a needle to reach the planet and avoid getting sucked in by our star's powerful gravity.
JAXA's Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO) will collect data on the planet's magnetosphere.
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A seven-year, eight-million-kilometer voyage expected to shed light on the mysteries of Mercury, the solar system's least-understood planet, is almost ready for takeoff. It will study the internal structure, the magnetic field and the surface composition.
During the buildup to tonight's launch, ESA Director General Jan Wörner said the appeal of Mercury and the BepiColombo mission isn't strictly scientific.
Airbus in the United Kingdom built large parts of the MPO and the mission's propulsion unit, called the Mercury Transfer Module (MTM).
Scientists hope the £1.4 billion mission will unravel some of Mercury's mysteries, such as the reason for its oversized iron core, its spectacular volcanic vents, and tantalising hints of water ice in shadowy parts of the scorching hot planet.
"BepiColombo is one of the most complex interplanetary missions we have ever flown".
"After launch, and having escaped the "gravity well" of Earth, BepiColombo has to constantly brake against the gravitational pull of the sun".
It's not exactly a quick trip to the closest planet to the sun. To prevent the spacecraft being dragged into a fiery annihilation, it will attempt to slow itself down via a number of complicated manoeuvres around Venus and Mercury. This technique can provide much more thrust per mass of fuel than conventional chemical rockets.The sun's enormous gravity means that more energy is needed to get into a stable orbit about Mercury than would be needed to send the same spacecraft to vastly more distant Pluto.