Probe goes into Venus orbit

Venus Express, a European spacecraft on a mission to learn more about Earth’s closest neighbour, has succesfully entered orbit around the planet.

    Venus Express has flown 400,000 km over six months

    Scientists hope the mission, which is expected to last at least 500 days, will help them learn more about Venus' climate, which has experienced runaway greenhouse gas warming.

    Despite being a similar size to Earth, Venus has been described as its "evil twin", with daytime temperatures reaching almost 500C, hurricane force winds and an atmosphere made up of 96% carbon monoxide.

    The European Space Agency craft was launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on November 9 last year and has travelled 400,000km to reach its target.

    Venus Express began its entry into orbit by rotating so that its engines faced the direction in which it was travelling.

    Its engines then began to fire, slowing the craft down from its 29,000km per hour velocity and allowing the craft to begin a polar orbit of Venus that will bring it to within 400km of the planet.

    Greenhouse effect

    Venus has been dubbed Earth's
    'evil twin'

    Worried scientists were completely out of contact with the spacecraft for around 10 minutes during the engine firing procedure, as it passed behind Venus before re-emerging.

    Scientists hope to discover more about the greenhouse effect that chokes Venus, leading to temperatures hot enough to melt lead.
     
    The information is expected to help them better understand the impact of climate change on Earth.

    They also want to learn more of the hurricane force winds that permanently swirl around the planet, as well as why Venus rotates backwards and so slowly, turning just once every 243 Earth days.

    The craft's proximity to the Sun could also help scientists learn more about the impact of powerful Solar winds.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera


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