U.S., Europe to Collaborate on New Venus Mission

  • VOA News

    June 11, 2021 08:17

    The European Space Agency (ESA) announced Thursday it will collaborate with the U.S. space agency NASA on an unmanned probe to study Venus, the third such mission to the planet announced this month.

    In a release, ESA said the probe will be called EnVision, and much like the DAVINCI+ and VERITAS missions announced by NASA earlier in June, its overall mission will be to collect data about Venus' atmosphere and surface to unlock information about how the planet formed and evolved.

    This image made available by NASA shows the planet Venus made with data produced by the Magellan spacecraft and Pioneer Venus Orbiter from 1990 to 1994. /AP

    Venus is of particular interest to scientists because it is Earth's closest neighbor in the solar system and strikingly similar to Earth in size and composition. Yet in its current form, it is inhospitable to life as we know it, with a surface temperature capable of melting lead.

    The EnVision probe will contain instruments to answer questions as to how Venus got that way. The spacecraft will include a "sounder" to help reveal what lies below the surface of the planet. Spectrometers on the probe will study both the surface and the atmosphere, monitoring for trace gases that might indicate an active volcano.

    NASA will contribute the VenSAR radar system to image and map the surface. The space agency will also be responsible for the project's overall instrument management.

    Scientist from both agencies say there will be some overlap among the missions. The DAVINCI+ probe will also study Venus' atmosphere, but do so by dropping a secondary probe directly through it.

    And like the EnVision probe, VERITAS will study the planet's surface, but will use high resolution topography and a global location map for Venus that will serve as a reference system for all past and future surface data collected.

    The two NASA probes are expected to launch between 2028 and 2030. The earliest launch opportunity for EnVision is 2031. The spacecraft would take around 15 months to reach the planet, with a further 16 months to achieve the desired orbit.

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