ESA planning first exploratory mission to Venus

April 12, 2002

Brussels, 11 April 2002

The European space agency (ESA) is planning its first mission to unveil the mysteries of Earth's sister planet, Venus.

The Venus Express spacecraft, due for launch in 2005, is expected to travel for 150 days before entering into elliptical orbit around Earth's nearest planetary neighbour. It will then be manoeuvred into the polar orbit where it will remain for two Venus years - or 450 Earth days - to study Venus' atmosphere, surface and plasma environment.

Although Venus is similar in size and mass to Earth, its atmosphere and climate are totally different. The planet's surface, which features extensive volcanic activity, is hot enough for molten metal to flow, and is swept by hurricane force winds.

Professor Fred Taylor of the University of Oxford, who will present the Venus Express mission to the UK National Astronomy meeting on 10 April, said: 'The planet's weather systems and climate characteristics cannot be understood by comparison with Earth. The failure of extrapolated terrestrial models to account for Venus' behaviour has wide implications in fields ranging from solar system evolution to climate forecasting on Earth.

'Venus Express is a strong candidate to be part of the next wave of Venus exploration, including Japanese and probably American space missions, which will probe the environment of this mysterious planet,' he added.

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CORDIS RTD-NEWS/© European Communities, 2001     

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