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ESA also announces new mission to Earth’s ‘evil twin’ Venus

Just days after NASA announced it would launch a new mission to Venus, the first since 1978, the European Space Agency has also announced it will launch a new Venus orbiter, EnVision, in the early 2030s.

ESA also announces new mission to Earth’s ‘evil twin’ Venus
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The ESA said its mission will work closely alongside that of NASA, to provide even greater insight into the planet dubbed Earth’s ‘evil twin’ and next-door neighbour.

EnVision will work to study why Venus and Earth, despite being roughly the same size and composition, and being beside one another in the solar system, have evolved to be so different.

Venus is far from being habitable, like Earth, and instead boasts a toxic atmosphere, covered with thick sulphuric acid-rich clouds.

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The ESA hopes its EnVision orbiter will be able to help us understand how this came to be, if Venus ever sustained life, and, if so, could Earth be doomed to a similar ultimate fate?

EnVision will use its state-of-the-art instruments, including a sounder, spectrometers and radars, to discover more about the surface and atmosphere of Venus.

Its spectrometers will monitor and trace the gases that make up Venus’ atmosphere, while also analysing its surface composition, looking for signs of possible active volcanism.

Meanwhile, EnVision’s NASA-provided radar will capture and map the surface of the planet, while a radio experiment will probe the planet’s internal structure and gravity field.

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“The instruments will work together to best characterise the interaction between the planet’s different boundaries – from the interior to surface to atmosphere – providing an all-encompassing global view of the planet and its processes,” ESA said.

EnVision follows on from ESA’s highly successful Venus Express (2005-2014) that focused primarily on atmospheric research, but which also made dramatic discoveries that pointed to possible volcanic hotspots on the planet’s surface.

“A new era in the exploration of our closest, yet wildly different, solar system neighbour awaits us,” said Günther Hasinger, ESA director of science.

“Together with the newly announced NASA-led Venus missions, we will have an extremely comprehensive science programme at this enigmatic planet well into the next decade.

“EnVision benefits from collaboration with NASA, combining excellence in European and American expertise in Venus science and technology, to create this ambitious mission.

“EnVision further strengthens Europe’s role in the scientific exploration of the Solar System. Our growing mission fleet will give us, and future generations, the best insights ever into how our planetary neighbourhood works, particularly relevant in an era where we are discovering more and more unique exoplanet systems.”

Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s associate administrator for science, said, “We are thrilled to contribute to ESA’s exciting new mission to investigate Venus.

“EnVision leverages strengths in instrument development by both our agencies. Combined with NASA’s Discovery missions to Venus, the science community will have a powerful and synergistic set of new data to understand how Venus formed and how the surface and atmosphere changed over time.”

Hannah Dowling

Hannah Dowling

Writer – Defence and Aerospace, Momentum Media

Hannah joined Momentum as a journalist in 2019, and has since written breaking news stories across a diverse range of corporate industries, including finance, real estate, investments and aviation. She has a keen interest in the global aviation sector, with a particualy focus on improving overall individual wellbeing across the aerospace industry.

Hannah graduated from Macquarie University in Sydney Australia with a Bachelor of Media (Journalism) and is currently pursuing postgraduate studies.

Send Hannah an email at [email protected] or connect via Twitter or LinkedIn.

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