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  • Writer's pictureSven Piper

Venus Express

Updated: 7 days ago

Venus Express spacecraft
Venus Express spacecraft

The Venus Express space probe reused parts of the design from the Mars Express and Rosetta spacecraft and was the first mission of the European Space Agency (ESA) to Earth's 'sister planet,' because both are very similar in size and bulk composition.

Venus Express launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at November 8, 2005 with a Soyuz-Fregat rocket. After a 153-day cruise to Venus, the spacecraft entered Venusian orbit in April 2006.

Once it was captured by Venusian gravity, Venus Express took 5 days to maneuver into its operational orbit, looping around the poles of the planet. At its closest, it reached an altitude of 250 kilometers and at its furthest, it was 66,000 kilometers away from the planet.

The mission was born in March 2001 and today the planet Venus is still a mystery world. Scientists are unable to explain some of the more extreme atmospheric phenomena that take place on Venus. For example, the planet only rotates once every 243 Earth days. However, in the upper atmosphere, hurricane-force winds sweep around Venus, taking just 4 Earth days to circumnavigate the planet.

The surface of Venus also baffles scientists. The oldest craters seem to be only 500 million years old, which may indicate that the planet behaves like a volcanic pressure cooker.

Mission Results:

  • Climate of Venus: The mission helped in understanding the structure of Venus' atmosphere, which is hoped to contribute to the study of climate change on Earth.

  • Search for life on Earth: Venus Express was used to observe signs of life on Earth from Venus orbit.

  • Atmospheric Details: Venus Express studied Venus's atmosphere and clouds in detail, the plasma environment, and the surface characteristics of Venus from orbit. It also made global maps of the Venusian surface temperatures.

  • Ozone Layer: A layer of ozone was found in the upper atmosphere of Venus.

  • Cold Layer: A cold layer where dry ice may precipitate exists in the atmosphere of Venus.

  • Hydroxyl: The detection of hydroxyl (OH) in the atmosphere of Venus was reported.

  • Aerobraking Experiment: Venus Express performed a successful aerobraking experiment, which involved multiple passes at an altitude of 131 to 135 km.

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