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Venus Express

Still going strong six years after launch

Oxygen airglow around Venus as seen by Venus Express © ESASince its launch on 9 November 2005, Venus Express has continued to excel itself. Designed for an initial mission lifetime of two years, including the six month journey to reach Venus, it completed its 2000th orbit of the planet last month in the run up to today’s anniversary. Just one example of its many discoveries is that of an ozone layer around the planet announced just weeks ago.

UV-IR composite image of Venus © Observatoire de Paris (R.Hueso, Univ. Bilbao)

Venus Express was the first European mission to the planet and was the first space probe to perform a global investigation of the Venusian atmosphere. Primed by Airbus Defence and Space for ESA, lead by Toulouse and involving all Airbus Defence and Space countries, over 150 people worked on the programme, which was the fastest ESA science mission ever developed, completed in record time of just 33 months (compared to 48 months for Mars Express). This was largely due to re-use of Mars Express/Rosetta technologies and instruments. Nevertheless, certain aspects of the spacecraft, in particular the thermal aspects, had to be specifically tailored to the demands of the mission and its Venusian environment.

Venus Express Cleanroom 2005In an email marking the 2000th orbit, sent to all those who have played a key role on the project, ESA’s Venus Express Project Scientist Håkan Svedhem enthused: “Congratulations to all of you who have been involved in this great mission in one way or the other. The spacecraft is doing very well and more and more exciting results are coming out of the analysis of the data. This year we have already published 72 scientific publications, which is more than any other year since the launch.”

Find out about progress on the above on ESA’s Venus Express mini-site:

Questions Venus Express is helping to answer

- How do the complex global dynamics of the planet work?
What causes the super-fast atmospheric rotation and the hurricane-force winds? What maintains the double atmospheric vortex at the poles?

- How does the cloud system work?
How do clouds and haze form and evolve at different altitudes?
What is the origin of mysterious ultraviolet markers at the cloud tops?

- What processes govern the chemical state of the atmosphere?

- What role does the ‘greenhouse effect’ play in the global evolution of the Venusian climate?

- What governs the escape processes within the atmosphere?

- Are there water, carbon-dioxide or sulphuric-acid cycles on Venus?

- What caused the global volcanic resurfacing of Venus 500 million years ago?

- Why are some areas on the surface so reflective to radar?

- Is there currently volcanic or seismic activity on the planet?

Space ExplorationVenus Express