Share article:
Share article:

European Space Agency green-lights mission to Venus

An artist's impression of the EnVision mission to Venus. © ESA

The European Space Agency (ESA) had given the go-ahead to a mission to study the geology and atmosphere of the planet Venus, Earth’s closest neighbour.

The question behind the mission: was the planet once habitable, and if not, why has Earth, as third from the Sun in a solar system of eight/nine planets, turned out to be the only one able to support life as we know it?

The project is named EnVision, and has the support of researchers from the University of Oxford, Royal Holloway, a college of the University of London, and Imperial College London. It forms part of the ESA’s Cosmic Vision programme.

The EnVision mission is expected to cost €610 million, and will look at “past and present volcanic activity and the key volcanic gases that sustain its clouds and hostile environment,” the agency said.

In size, composition and distance from the Sun, Venus is the closest planet to Earth in the solar system, and the international team of researchers will study samples from the planet’s interior, surface and atmosphere, comparing them to known data from Earth, in an attempt to figure out why the two neighbours followed such divergent paths.

When they initially formed, Earth and Venus were probably once quite similar, with oceans of molten rock and thick atmospheres of carbon dioxide and steam,” the ESA said.

But Earth evolved to become the habitable planet we enjoy today; Venus may or may not have had a habitable phase with liquid water oceans before developing a runaway greenhouse effect which today cooks its surface to an inhospitable 450 degrees Centigrade.”

I have been working towards getting ESA to choose a Venus mission for over 15 years now, including balloons, probes and landers, and we have been developing this orbiter proposal since 2009,” said Dr Colin Wilson, senior research fellow at Oxford’s department of physics and a deputy lead scientist of the mission.

Today’s announcement comes as a great reward for the huge efforts put in over this time by the whole team of scientists and engineers who have brought us this far. The real work lies ahead of us, of course, in getting the mission realised and to the launchpad; I’m then really looking forward the exciting scientific insights it will yield!”

Latest news

Why Belgium is regulating sex work
After decades of confusing rules and hypocritical policy, Belgium is finally regulating sex work by removing prostitution from the criminal law. ...
Up to 100 km/h winds expected across Belgium on Wednesday night
Gusts of up to 100 km/h are expected across Belgium on Wednesday night, according to the Royal Meteorological Institute (RMI), which has issued a ...
Cycling traffic officially added to VRT’s traffic bulletin
Usually a list of updates for drivers on busy roads, traffic bulletins will now include the latest travel news for cyclists in Belgium, VRT announced ...
MEPs call for European strategy to protect workers from asbestos
Members of the European Parliament are calling on the Commission to create a strategy for removing all abestos from buildings in order to reduce the ...
Mandatory vaccine for carers: employers call for sanctions
In a notice submitted by the National Council for Work (CNT), employers have called for heavy penalties for healthcare workers who refuse to receive ...
Police pension protest blocks several Brussels crossroads
On Wednesday, around 350 police officers expressed their dissatisfaction about the unclear pension scheme, low salaries and politicised police unions ...
Belgium in Brief: A Consultative Committee Sequel
Sequels often have a lot to live up to and when it comes to movie franchises, it gets difficult to keep up the hype once you get towards the final ...
25 years ago today: 300,000 people marched in white against child abuse
On this day 25 years ago, over 300,000 people marched in Brussels to demand a more effective justice system and to support the families of Julie, ...
Windy weather forecast should lower gas prices
After weeks of relatively calm conditions, a return to windy weather should lower Europe's soaring energy prices. Wind turbines in the UK and Germany ...
EC calls on candidate countries to focus on fundamental reforms before they can join the EU
The European Commission adopted yesterday its 2021 Enlargement Package, providing a detailed assessment of the state of play and the progress made by ...
Cigarette-eating robot patrols Ghent streets to fight littering
A litter fighting (and eating) robot will be patrolling the streets of Ghent in the coming weeks in an effort to raise awareness of the growing ...
Display of child’s room in Brussels raises awareness of foster families
An exhibit that features a fictitious child’s bedroom has been on display since Tuesday at the Place d'Armes in Namur, with the support of the ...