BepiColombo, the British-built spacecraft destined for Mercury, will bid a final farewell to Earth this weekend before heading to the Sun's closest planet.
The craft launched in October 2018 and due to its looping orbit, which resembles a penny in a spiral wishing well, is set to fly past Earth at about 4.25am on Friday.
It will be 12,700km above the South Atlantic but will not be visible from the Northern hemisphere.
BepiColombo's five billion mile journey will also feature two flybys of Venus and six of Mercury itself before arriving at its destination after seven years in space.
'Each planetary encounter over the next few years gently slows BepiColombo down, so that we can eventually achieve orbit around Mercury in 2025,' says Professor Emma Bunce, from the University of Leicester's School of Physics and Astronomy.
In 2025, it will place two probes - one European and one Japanese - in orbit around Mercury, the least explored world in the solar system.
BepiColombo, the British-built spacecraft destined for Mercury, will bid a final farewell to Earth before heading to the tiny rocky planet closest to the sun
Pictured, situs mpo slot a photo taken on-board BepiColombo shortly after its launch in 2018.
The view looks along one of the extended solar arrays (right). The structure in the bottom left corner is one of the sun sensors on the MTM, with the multi-layered insulation clearly visible
'This is an important milestone for the mission, and hence for our instrument on board,' said Professor Bunce, who helped build an instrument on BepiColombo.
'We will not be talking to our instrument during the flyby, but some others will be operating and we look forward to some beautiful pictures of the Earth and moon.
'Following this flyby the spacecraft will be slung in the direction of Venus for the next gravity assist later in 2020.'
The European Space Agency's European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany will be tracking its progress as it passes by the Earth.