ESA-Led Envision Spacecraft Gears Up for Travel to Venus; Undergoes Aerobraking Test for Scheduled Launch by 2030


Europe's EnVision mission to Venus (ESA)

Europe’s EnVision mission to Venus


In the midst of the Cold War, the Soviet Union sent Sputnik 1 into an elliptical low-Earth orbit in 1957, shocking the entire world and creating a frenzy for space exploration. It was another five years before a human creation encountered an alien planet. On December 14, 1962, NASA launched Mariner 2 – the first interplanetary spacecraft – to Venus, 34,854 kilometers from our home planet.

Still, humans had to wait another 16 years to study our sister planet’s atmosphere. The extremely harsh conditions of Venus have always made exploring the planet a great challenge. Despite this, studies of its atmosphere continue. In 2020, a to learn sent shockwaves across the globe when it spotted phosphine on clouds from Venus and hypothesized that it could be a biological product of the presence of life.

Later, the European Space Agency announced its plans to send another spacecraft to Earth’s twin to examine it more closely. Here is the latest update on the historical mission:

What is ESA planning?

Space Shuttle tail glows with Atomic Oxygen (ESA)

The space shuttle’s tail glows with atomic oxygen


ESA’s EnVision is a follow-up to its first mission, Venus Express, which aimed to analyze the inner core and upper atmosphere of the Venusian planet to understand how and why Venus and Earth evolved so differently. The upcoming mission will also explore Venus’ low orbit, focusing on the planet’s geology and atmosphere. The mission is carried out in cooperation with the US space agency NASA.

ESA explains that the spacecraft will be launched into Venus orbit at about 2,50,000 km altitude and will need to be placed in a 500 km polar orbit for scientific operations. However, the tricky part is the atmosphere of the Venusian planet. Because it’s hot as hell, the mission’s success will depend on EnVision’s aerobraking – the process of slowing a spacecraft by flying through a planet’s rarefied atmosphere to create drag – which pushes the thermal endurance of the spacecraft’s materials to their limits will test.

“We’ll be much closer to the Sun and experience roughly twice Earth’s solar intensity, with the atmosphere’s thick white clouds reflecting much of the sunlight directly back into space by another factor in the thousands of orbits we’ve been contemplating.” previously experienced only in low Earth orbit: highly erosive atomic oxygen,” the space agency said in a statement.

Last week, the agency announced that a unique facility is currently testing candidate spacecraft materials to verify that they can safely withstand this challenging atmospheric surfing process. The Low Earth Orbit Facility (LEOX) at ESA’s ESTEC technical center in the Netherlands simulates atomic oxygen orbiting at the apex of Venus’ atmosphere, which is more than 90 times thicker than Earth’s atmosphere.

A new hope!

Researchers have completely ruled out the possibility of life on Venus’ surface due to its incalescent surface temperatures of around 475°C. But the space race to discover potential life on the planet hasn’t stopped because the possibility of microbial life in its atmosphere has been removed.

A to learn The study, conducted in 2021, even found that sunlight filtering through the clouds of Venus could benefit the planet by supporting photosynthetic microorganisms. In addition, there are hypotheses about the possibility that, thanks to the thermal energy of the planet, photosynthesis also takes place at night!

The EnVision mission is scheduled to launch in the early 2030s. Currently, the Japanese spacecraft Akatsuki is the only spacecraft orbiting Venus. It studies the dense atmosphere to unravel the mysteries of its extreme climate.


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