While for decades Mars has been the extraterrestrial planet that has arguably received the most attention, in recent years, planetary scientists have been setting their sights on our other neighbor: Venus.
This exotic planet, with its extremely high temperatures and incredible surface pressure, will be the site of two upcoming NASA and one European Space Agency missions in the next decade, and a special space mission from New Zealand, the Rocket Lab, will also join the agency’s missions.
Rocket Lab recently shared more details about its planned mission to Venus in a post in Aerospace magazine.
With a launch planned for 2023, it will be the first special mission to Venus and will use an Electron rocket from Rocket Lab and the Photon spacecraft.
The goal of the mission is to check if anything can live in the thick clouds of Venus.
The topic received international attention in 2020 when a study suggested that there might be phosphine, a possible indicator of life, in the clouds of Venus, Digitartlends reported.
However, subsequent research indicated that the indicator was likely only sulfur dioxide, a common gas not particularly associated with life.
However, the possibility of microscopic life on Venus has long been debated by Rocket Lab, as the planet was similar to Earth.
The Rocket Lab mission will send a probe into orbit around Venus to explore its atmosphere, using a probe with an instrument called a fluorescent autonucleometer to collect data about the composition of the venus clouds.
The Electron rocket will launch in May 2023 and carry the Photon spacecraft into Earth orbit; Then the spacecraft will separate and travel to Venus.
Once in orbit in October 2023, it will deploy a probe that will fall through the atmosphere and send data back to Earth.
This is a similar plan for NASA’s DAVINCI mission to Venus, which also involves sending a probe through the planet’s atmosphere, although this probe will contain more comprehensive instruments such as a spectrometer and camera.
“The mission is the first opportunity to directly probe Venus cloud particles in nearly four decades.
In the publication, Rocket Lab collaborators relayed, even with mass and data rate constraints, and limited time in Venus’s atmosphere, scientific progress is possible. “Overall scientific goals are to search for evidence of life or habitability in the clouds of Venus.”