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EnVision Mission to Venus: European Space Agency

  • 12 Jun 2021
  • 4 min read

Why in News

Recently, European Space Agency (ESA) has announced a new mission- EnVision mission to Venus.

Key Points

  • About:
    • It is an European Space Agency (ESA) led mission with contributions from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
    • It is likely to be launched sometime in the 2030s. Once launched on an Ariane 6 rocket, the spacecraft will take about 15 months to reach Venus and will take 16 more months to achieve orbit circularisation.
  • Aim:
    • The mission will carry a range of instruments to study the planet’s atmosphere and surface, monitor trace gases in the atmosphere and analyse its surface composition.
  • Significance:
    • EnVision will follow another ESA-led mission to Venus called ‘Venus Express’ (2005-2014) that focussed on atmospheric research and pointed to volcanic hotspots on the planet’s surface.
  • Other Missions:
    • US:
      • NASA has announced two new robotic missions to Venus - DAVINCI+ and VERITAS. It will be launched between 2028-2030.
      • Mariner series 1962-1974, Pioneer Venus 1 and Pioneer Venus 2 in 1978, Magellan in 1989.
    • Russia:
      • Venera series of space crafts 1967-1983, Vegas 1 and 2 in 1985.
    • Japan:
      • Akatsuki spacecraft has been studying the planet’s atmosphere since 2015.
  • Indian Initiative:
    • India plans to launch a new orbiter named Shukrayaan to Venus in 2024.
  • Importance of Studying Venus:
    • It will help to learn how Earth-like planets evolve and what conditions exist on Earth-sized exoplanets (planets that orbit a star other than our sun).
    • It will help in modelling Earth’s climate, and serves as a cautionary tale on how dramatically a planet’s climate can change.
    • Scientists speculate about the existence of life on Venus in its distant past and the possibility that life may exist in the top layers of its clouds where temperatures are less extreme.
      • In 2020, scientists detected the presence of phosphine (a chemical produced only through biological processes) in the atmosphere of Venus.

DAVINCI+

  • DAVINCI+ is short for ‘Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry, and Imaging’ and is the first US-led mission to the planet’s atmosphere since 1978.
  • It will try to understand Venus’ composition to see how the planet formed and evolved.
  • This mission also consists of a descent sphere that will pass through the planet’s thick atmosphere and make observations and take measurements of noble gases and other elements.
  • It will also try to return the first high resolution photographs of a geological feature-tesserae.
    • Tesserae may be comparable to Earth’s continents. The presence of tesseraes may suggest that Venus has tectonic plates like Earth.

VERITAS

  • VERITAS is short for ‘Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography, and Spectroscopy’ and will map the planet’s surface to determine its geologic history and understand the reasons why it developed so differently from Earth.
  • It will orbit Venus with a radar that will help to create a three dimensional reconstruction of its topography which might be able to confirm if processes such as plate tectonics and volcanism are still active there.
  • This mission will also map the emissions from Venus’s surface that may help in determining the type of rocks that exist on Venus.
  • It will also determine if active volcanoes are releasing water vapour into the atmosphere.

Source: IE

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