The European Space Agency (ESA) has confirmed that it will be sending missions to explore Venus. The space agency will be joining NASA that recently announced its return to the hellish planet after 3 decades.
The sudden rush in exploring Venus shows that astronomers are keen to learn more about Earth’s closest neighbor. The planet share many characteristics with Earth, despite lacking capabilities of fostering life.
The mission from ESA will be called EnVision and it will be fitted with a high-resolution camera called VenSAR that will take high-res measurements of Venus’s surface. The camera will be provided by NASA.
Huge upgrade over NASA’s mission
It will be a huge upgrade over NASA’s Magellan mission, which snapped low-res images of the planet back in the 1990s. The instrument might unravel secrets about Venus’ volcanoes, tectonic movements, and landslides.
“EnVision’s VenSAR will provide a unique perspective with its targeted studies of the Venus surface, enriching the roadmap of Venus exploration,” said Adriana Ocampo, EnVision Program Scientist at NASA. Astronomers are also thrilled to learn more about Venusian “tesserae,” the planet’s equivalent of Earth’s continents.
“If they’re made of basalt, that would imply fresh, virgin magma erupting on to the surface everywhere, all of a similar composition,” Philippa Mason, an EnVision science team member told the BBC.
“But if those ‘continents’ actually have a very different composition — if they’re granitic in nature — that would mean that at some stage in the past there’s been water in the mantle of Venus because you make granite from wet magma,” she added. “Envision will be able to distinguish between granite and basalt — and other flavors of rock.”
Venus’ atmosphere still a mystery
Apart from VenSAR, the mission will also pack a second radar unit that can scan Venus’ makeup up to .62 miles deep. The spacecraft will also have spectrometers to search for hotspots that will help determine the atmosphere of the planet.
“EnVision will probe the links between its atmosphere, surface, and interior to discover why Venus is so different, giving us the keys to understanding Earth-sized planets everywhere,” Richard Ghail, Envision lead scientist told the BBC.