Science

Space Europe puts its mission for Venus back on track

The European Space Agency (ESA) on Thursday selected a probe, EnVision, to explore Venus in the early 2030s, in order to understand how the planet, our closest neighbor, has become an uninhabitable toxic hell.

This announcement comes a week after the announcement by NASA of two new missions to Venus, Davinci + and Veritas, between 2028 and 2030.

The EnVision probe, which competed with another mission called Theseus, was finally selected by ESA’s scientific program committee for its “revolutionary” technology, the agency (22 member states) said in a statement.

The orbiter will carry a series of European instruments to provide “a global view of the planet, from its inner core to its upper atmosphere, in order to determine how and why Venus and Earth evolved so differently”.

Venus may have roughly the same size and composition as Earth, it has experienced dramatic climate change, evolving “in a toxic atmosphere and is enveloped in thick clouds rich in sulfuric acid”, details the ESA.

The closest EnVision launch opportunity is 2031, and other options are possible in 2032 and 2033. After takeoff, EnVision will take approximately 15 months to reach its destination, and an additional 16 months to set its orbit, inclusive. between 220 and 540 km above Venus.

The on-board spectrometers will monitor gases in the atmosphere and analyze the composition of the surface, “looking for any changes linked to signs of active volcanism.” A radar provided by NASA will send images and maps of the surface.

An instrument will also make it possible to probe the internal structure of the planet and its field of gravity.

The previous ESA Venus Express mission (2005-2014), was mainly focused on atmospheric research.

juc / may / mpm

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