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EnVision mission

  • Category
    Science & Technology
  • Published
    21st Jun, 2021

The European Space Agency (ESA) announced that it has selected EnVision as its next orbiter that will visit Venus in the 2030s.

Context

The European Space Agency (ESA) announced that it has selected EnVision as its next orbiter that will visit Venus in the 2030s.

About

About EnVision

  • EnVision is an ESA led mission with contributions from NASA.
  • It is likely to be launched sometime in the 2030s.
    • The earliest launch opportunity for EnVision is 2031, followed by 2032 and 2033.
  • It will be launched on an Ariane 6 rocket.
    • Ariane 6 is designed with two core stages both powered by liquid hydrogen-liquid oxygen engines. 
  • Components of the mission:
    • Venus Synthetic Aperture Radar(VenSAR)
    • Venus Subsurface Radar Sounder(SRS)
    • Venus Spectroscopy Suite(VenSpec)
  • It will study the planet’s atmosphere and surface, monitor trace gases in the atmosphere and analyse its surface composition.
  • A radar provided by NASA will help to image and map the surface.

What are the key questions behind the exploration of Venus?

  • The reason behind its hot stage.
  • Catastrophic greenhouse effect on Earth.
  • Is Venus still geologically active?
  • Could it have once hosted an ocean and even sustained life?
  • What lessons can be learned about the evolution of terrestrial planets in general, as we discover more Earth-like exoplanets?

What do we know about Venus?

  • Venus is the second-brightest object in the sky after the moon.
  • It appears bright because of its thick cloud cover that reflects and scatters light.
  • Venus is called the Earth’s twin because of their similar sizes, the two planets have significant differences between them.
  • The planet’s thick atmosphere traps heat and is the reason that it is the hottest planet in the solar system, despite coming after Mercury, the closest planet to the Sun. Surface temperatures on Venus can go up to 471 degrees Celsius, which is hot enough to melt lead, NASA notes.
  • Venus moves forward on its orbit around the Sun but spins backwards around its axis slowly. This means on Venus the Sun rises in the west and sets in the East.
  • Venus also does not have a moon and no rings.

What other nations are doing?

  1. Recently, NASA has also selected two missions, DAVINCI+ and VERITAS, to the planet Venus between2028-2030.
  2. ESA earlier launched a mission to Venus called ‘Venus Express’ (2005-2014).
  3. Japan’s Akatsuki spacecraft has also been studying the planet’s atmosphere since 2015.
  4. NASA’s Magellan Mission studied Venus from 1990-1994.
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