Brak­ing Test Ends in a Sea of Flames

Over a pe­riod of 9 years, Venus Ex­press car­ries out a thor­ough in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Venus, be­fore burn­ing up in the at­mos­phere.

Science Illustrated - - SPACE/ SOLAR SYSTEM -

Equipped with brand new in­stru­ments such as mag­ne­tome­ters, spec­trom­e­ters, etc., ESA's Venus Ex­press probe is launched from Earth on 9 Novem­ber 2005, head­ing for Venus, to study cli­mate, cloud cover, and the chem­istry of the at­mos­phere.

The probe dis­cov­ers an at­mos­phere that con­tains wa­ter – in spite of a tem­per­a­ture of 465 °C on the planet’s sur­face. The wa­ter mol­e­cules are shat­tered by UV ra­di­a­tion and blow into space. Based on data from the probe, as­tronomers cal­cu­late that Venus was prob­a­bly cov­ered in wa­ter 3 bil­lion years ago and might have in­cluded life.

Last, the probe dives to an al­ti­tude of 130 km in 2015 to test slow­ing it­self down by skat­ing across the at­mos­phere. VenusEx­press is lost in the ma­noeu­vre.

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