When will the first private mission to Venus take place?

When will the first private mission to Venus take place?

No private company has yet sent a spacecraft to explore a world beyond the Earth-Moon system. Rocket Lab intends to open the sphere by sending a small probe in the direction of Venus. The aim will be to assess the habitability of the clouds. But to launch this mission, we’ll have to wait.

Venus: a hellish planet

Venus is one of the planets the harshest from our solar system. Its atmosphere is composed primarily of carbon dioxide (CO2), with clouds of sulfuric acid. This dense atmosphere traps the sun’s heat and causes a strong greenhouse effect. On the surface, temperatures It will then be about 470 degrees Celsius. Even the planet Mercury, which is closest to our star, is not so hot.

Atmospheric pressure on the surface of Venus is also approx 92 times larger than Earth. To put that into perspective, that’s a pressure equivalent to the pressure felt in the ocean at a depth of one kilometer. In addition, Venus is swept by violent winds, which reach high speeds up to 350 km / h in the upper atmosphere. In addition, although the planet was once considered a possible wet planet, recent observations indicate that Liquid water is not present on its surface.

For all these reasons, Venus has long been thought uninhabitable.

A wonderful world after all

The planet continues to be of interest to planetary scientists for several reasons. On the other hand, Venus is considered a “sister” to Earth due to its similar size and composition. Thus, studying its thick atmosphere and extreme greenhouse effect can better help scientists Understand the mechanisms and climatic changes on Earth.

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Moreover, despite its inhospitable environment, the planet attracts interest as a case study Understanding the limits of planetary habitability. By understanding why Venus has turned into a scorching inferno, scientists can already better assess the conditions needed to support life on other planets.

Moreover, even if surface conditions do not allow life as we know it to be preserved, certain parts of Venus’ atmosphere appear much milder…but are they still habitable? Some think so. This is especially the case Rocket Laba company known for trying to catch up with its early-stage rockets by helicopter.

deferred assignment

Last August 2022, the New Zealand company confirmed its intention to self-finance the development and launch in May 2023 of a small probe responsible for flying through the clouds of Venus.

A team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and other organizations will also contribute to the science burden. It will be a self-luminous accelerometer. This small instrument will be able to detect particles suspended in clouds. The goal will be to search for organic compounds.

The probe is expected to take just over five minutes to traverse the upper atmosphere. However, it can also continue transmitting data as it descends to the surface.

An artist’s illustration of the Venus probe planned by Rocket Lab approaching the second planet closest to the Sun. Credits: Rocket Lab

Ultimately, mission development fell behind schedule. As a result, it cannot be launched on time. However, the backup opportunity is still available at January 2025. According to the latest news, this first special mission to Venus will not take place for at least a year and a half. A company spokesperson recently confirmed this to Techcrunch.

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For the launch, Rocket Lab plans to use the small eighteen-meter Electron rocket. The launcher will be responsible for delivering the probe 165 km above Earth. From there, the rocket’s upper stage, called Photon, will take care of delivering the probe over Venus. Assuming a launch in January 2025, the ship could reach its target approx Five months later.

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