The European Space Agency (ESA) on Thursday selected EnVision, a probe to explore Venus in the early 2030s, to understand how the planet, our nearest neighbor, has become a deserted toxic hell.
The announcement comes a week after NASA announced two new missions to Venus, DaVinci+ and Veritas, between 2028 and 2030.
The EnVision probe, which was in competition with another mission called Theseus, was eventually selected by the ESA Scientific Program Committee for its “revolutionary” technology, the agency (22 member states) said in a statement.
The orbiter will adopt a range of European instruments, allowing “a global view of the planet, from its inner core to its upper atmosphere, to determine how and why Venus and Earth evolved so differently”.
The size and composition of Venus may be nearly identical to Earth’s, it has experienced dramatic climate change, “evolving in a toxic atmosphere and shrouded in dense clouds rich in sulfuric acid”, details the ESA.
The closest EnVision launch opportunity is 2031, and other options are possible in 2032 and 2033. After takeoff, EnVision will take approximately 15 months to reach its destination, and an additional 16 months to establish its orbit, which covers between 220 and 540 km up. Venus.
On-board spectrometers will monitor gases in the atmosphere and analyze surface composition, “looking for any changes associated with signs of active volcanism”. A radar provided by NASA will send pictures and maps of the surface.
An instrument would also make it possible to probe the planet’s internal structure and its gravitational field.
The previous ESA Venus Express mission (2005–2014), focused primarily on atmospheric research.