(October 2, 1920 – February 20, 1984), better known by his nickname Bepi Colombo
, was an Italian scientist
at the University of Padua
(not to be confused with the Italian engineer Giuseppe Colombo
He is best known for his work on the planet Mercury
, and it was his calculations on how to get a spacecraft into a resonant orbit with Mercury with multiple fly-bys that led to the success of the Mariner 10
Colombo also explained the spin-orbit resonance
in Mercury's orbit, showing that it rotates three times for every two orbits around the sun.
Colombo also made significant contributions to the study of Saturn's rings
, mostly using ground-based observations in the era before space exploration
reached the outer solar system.
Colombo invented tethers for tying satellites together. He also participated in the planning of Giotto
, the European Space Agency
's mission to Halley's Comet
, but died before the spacecraft was launched.
The planned ESA mission to Mercury is named BepiColombo
in his honor. The Colombo Gap
in Saturn's rings
and asteroid 10387 Bepicolombo are also named for him.