Scientific objectives

Venus is the Earth's nearest planetary neighbour. Venus is Earth's twin and yet it has evolved in a radically different manner, with a surface temperature hotter than a kitchen oven and a choking mixture of noxious gases for an atmosphere. Venus Express will make unique studies of this atmosphere.

In the past, both the Russians and Americans have sent spacecraft to Venus. Being the closest planet to the Earth, it was a natural target. These studies revealed details about the surface of the planet, mainly from NASA's Magellan radar mapper. However, Venus was out of the limelight during the last decade, despite several scientific puzzles.

Venus Express will study the complex dynamics and chemistry of Venus, and the interactions between the atmosphere and the surface, which will give clues about the surface’s characteristics of the planet. It will also study the interactions between the atmosphere and the interplanetary environment (solar wind) to better understand the evolution of the planet.

In the most comprehensive study of the Venusian atmosphere ever, Venus Express will address many open questions:

  • How do the complex global dynamics of the planet work?
    - What causes the super-fast atmospheric rotation and the hurricane-force winds?
    - What maintains the double atmospheric vortex at the poles?
  • How does the cloud system work?
    - How do clouds and haze form and evolve at different altitudes?
    - What is at the origin of mysterious ultraviolet marks at the clouds tops?
  • What processes govern the chemical state of the atmosphere?
  • What role does the ‘green-house effect’ play in the global evolution of the Venusian climate?
  • What governs the escape processes of the atmosphere?
  • Are there water, carbon dioxide or sulphuric acid cycles on Venus?
  • What caused the global volcanic resurfacing of Venus 500 million years ago?
  • Why are some areas on the surface so reflective to radar?
  • Is there present volcanic or seismic activity on the planet?

 

More info

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