• Home
  • Current News
  • ESA: Venus probe doomed to fiery death on weird planet’s surface

ESA: Venus probe doomed to fiery death on weird planet’s surface

Written by Iain Thomson, theregister.co.uk

The European Space Agency has administered the last rites to its Venus Express probe, saying that the spacecraft is now out of control and has gone “gently into the night.” venus express probe Its nine years of exploration ending up as Venusian rubble.

The European Space Agency has administered the last rites to its Venus Express probe, saying that the spacecraft is now out of control and has gone “gently into the night.”

“The available information provides evidence of the spacecraft losing attitude control most likely due to thrust problems during the raising maneuvers,” said Patrick Martin, ESA’s Venus Express mission manager. “It seems likely, therefore, that Venus Express exhausted its remaining propellant about half way through the planned maneuvers last month.”

Venus Express was launched in 2005 and took station around its namesake four months later to map out the planet’s weather systems. During the past eight years the craft has sent back images from one of the more bizarre atmospheres in the Solar System, and caused head-scratching with the discovery that Venus is slowing down.

Earlier Venus flybys and landing missions had taken measurements of the rotation rate of Venus to gauge its day-night cycle as the equivalent to 243.0185 Earth days. But the ESA probe’s measurements showed Venus had slowed down 6.5 minutes in the past 16 years – which makes our leap year look like a very minor affair.

The probe’s weather cameras have shown us the twin eyes of a constant 2,000 mile-wide storm that rages the South Pole of Venus, and its atmospheric testing equipment found evidence that the planet could once have had significant quantities of water and the materials for life as we know it.

That seems impossible now. The surface of the planet is a toasty 467°C (872°F), with light showers of sulfuric acid and clouds of sulfur dioxide floating in the lower atmosphere. Wind speeds are a brisk couple of hundred miles an hour, and Venus Express found that huge thunder and lightning storms also add to the hellishness.

The problem for the planet is its atmosphere, which is more than 96 per cent carbon dioxide. This keeps the planet very hot, even more so than its inner neighbor Mercury, but also makes it 93 times-denser than Earth’s. It’s that density that Venus Express has been testing – the hard way – in its last six months of operation.

When the Express started running out of fuel, ESA ordered it to try using Venus’s thick atmosphere to aerobrake – using the atmosphere to slow down the spacecraft – to find out how much stress the design could take.

Aerobraking is key to space travel plans. Using planetary atmospheres to bring spaceships safely to ground saves huge amounts of costly and scarce fuel.

In 2010 the probe surfed across the very top of the dense atmosphere to gauge the beginnings of the braking effect caused by that much carbon dioxide. When the spacecraft’s fuel supplies reached critical levels in May, ESA engineers decided to risk a deeper insertion.

The spacecraft controllers pushed the Express into a long elliptical orbit that dipped it as low as 130 kilometres (81 miles) from the surface of Venus. It survived a month-long acidic dunk, and on July 11 the ESA team boosted it back up to a safer orbit.

That last boost appears to have exhausted its fuel. As Venus Express drifted lower the team tried a second thruster maneuver on 23 November that would have seen the probe safe until next year, but the last dregs of fuel were insufficient.

Since then telemetry and command links with Venus Express have been growing steadily more garbled as the probe swoops deeper and deeper into the dense atmosphere. By now, the probe has most likely been torn apart by atmospheric resistance and spread across the rocky surface of Venus, but its discoveries will live on. ®

Read more at www.theregister.co.uk

Comments (3)

  • Avatar

    Rosco

    |

    I always laugh at how the so-called academics at Universities justify Venus’ greenhouse effect.

    They make the same old tired mistake of dividing the solar radiation by 4 to arrive at ~660 W/sqm. and then apply albedo of 0.8 to arrive at insolation of 132 W/sqm.

    They then calculate a “blackbody temperature” of 220 K.

    Then alarmingly state the greenhouse effect is responsible for 510 K to cause the surface temperature of 730 K.

    Apparently they see nothing strange about an output from a hot surface of 16101 W/sqm from an input of 132 W/sqm.

    They then claim it is CO2 absorbing this IR and trapping it but apparently the solar radiation has no place in their twisted logic.

    More realistically if you calculate that about 50 % of the solar radiation is IR and that at Venus’ orbit this is ~1300 W/sqm of which all would be absorbed by the atmosphere of CO2 and sulphuric acid cloud layers both of which absorb the highly energetic near IR strongly.

    This at least supplies significant energy to the planet’s atmosphere and is more believable than the methods used by university lecturers.

    Atmospheric pressure does the rest as the solar radiation would be capable of inducing significant atmospheric disturbance.

  • Avatar

    geran

    |

    A lot of taxes went into this, but at least there are some laughs:

    “The problem for the planet is its atmosphere, which is more than 96 per cent carbon dioxide. This keeps the planet very hot…”

    Someone call Al Gore. Not only can CO2 warm a planet, it can keep it hot!

  • Avatar

    FauxScienceSlayer

    |

    Three atom gas molecules do not capture, store or amplify electromagnetic radiation on Earth, or on Venus. There are other forces that are not widely recognized. Inquiring minds are requested to visit the Electric Universe for a series of presentations on the evidence of alternate realities to the current false paradigm. As an introduction see “Thunderbolts of the Gods” on previously unexplainable events….

    youtube.com/watch?v=5AUA7XS0TvA

Comments are closed