NASA announced last week that it will return to Venus for the first time in more than three decades. Now its European counterpart ESA is also launching a new mission to the planet.
“A new era awaits us in exploring our closest neighbors from the Solar System, but it’s very different.” That’s what Günther Hasinger, ESA’s chief science officer, announced today. “Together with the recently announced Venus missions by NASA, we will have a very comprehensive science program on this mysterious planet in the next decade.”
A week after NASA announced its plans for two missions to Venus, the European Space Agency announced that it had selected a probe, Envision, to re-study the second planet from the Sun. Moreover: Europe and the United States join forces. NASA will provide radar to image the planet’s surface.
Why did the two space agencies suddenly return to Venus? There is still a lot we don’t know about the planet. Scientists wonder why our closest neighbors are experiencing such a dramatic climate change. Although the planet is roughly the same size and composition as Earth, Venus has a toxic atmosphere covered in thick clouds rich in sulfuric acid.
“The most comprehensive study ever”
The launch should take place in the US before 2030. The European mission is due to begin in early 2030. “The three missions are very integrated,” Philippa Mason (Imperial College London) of the Envision team told the BBC.
According to the European Space Agency, the Venus Explorer will carry a wide range of instruments to study the atmosphere and the surface. This mission, along with the US probes, will provide “the most comprehensive study of Venus ever,” according to the European Space Agency.
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