The last time a spacecraft landed on the surface of Venus was more than 40 years ago. A soft landing and transmission of a color panoramic image was made by the Soviet automatic station Venera-14. This was in 1981.
Venera-14 worked for 57 minutes on the neighboring planet, and it was a huge success. The fact is that the weather on Venus, to put it mildly, leaves much to be desired: the surface temperature is almost 470 degrees – under such conditions, lead and tin melt. And the pressure is about 92 atmospheres – like in the ocean at a depth of 1 kilometer.
To top it off, the planet is raining sulfuric acid. Therefore, scientists soon lost all interest in the second planet from the Sun.
First, they were convinced that there could be no life there. And secondly, it is absolutely impossible even for robots to work on the planet. The landing modules were created on the principle of a thermos – all the equipment was placed inside a powerful thermal protective layer, but it barely had time to transmit some valuable scientific information before the infernal heat got inside and destroyed the devices.
Venus was forgotten for many decades. For the last 8 years, the interests of mankind on the second planet from the Sun have been represented by the lone Japanese Akatsuki orbiter. He arrived on the planet in 2015.
Venus will get crowded
However, recently the situation has changed magically. Several space powers at once announced plans to send expeditions to the hot “thing”.
1. The first apparatus will fly to Venus in the summer of 2023. This will be done by the American private space company ROCKET LAB. Private owners have their own reusable small rocket, with its help ROCKET LAB has already launched more than 150 satellites. The probe of a private company will look for organics in the clouds of the upper atmosphere.
2. In December 2024, the Shukrayan-1 orbital probe will be launched by India. The countrymen of Mahatma Gandhi are not new to space exploration, their devices worked on Mars and the Moon.
3. In 2029, the Russian mission “Venera-D” will start. It includes an orbiter and landers, as well as an atmospheric probe that will float in the clouds of the planet. The lander is equipped with a drilling rig. Scientists expect to study samples of Venusian soil. Its properties will be analyzed by instruments on site. It is expected that the lander will operate for several hours and during this time will transfer 340 MB of data to Earth.
4. In the summer of 2029, the American expedition DAVINCI + will go to Venus. It will deliver the orbital station and the descent atmospheric probe. During the 63 minutes of the fall, the probe will take many air samples and take photographs. A soft landing is not provided, but if its body withstands a blow at a speed of 12 meters per second, then the instruments will be able to continue working for 17-18 minutes.
5. In 2031, NASA plans to launch the VERITAS orbital station. With its help, they will study the geology of the planet and make a detailed map of the surface.
6. In the same 2031, the European Space Agency will send its EnVision orbital probe to Venus. He will also study geology and the atmosphere.
Why, after 40 years of oblivion, Venus is again in the center of attention of scientists?
The commotion occurred in 2020, when a team of scientists discovered phosphine gas in the planet’s atmosphere. On Earth, this toxic compound of phosphorus and hydrogen is secreted by anaerobic microorganisms.
Phosphine is considered a biomarker of life. A beautiful theory immediately arose: life on the surface of Venus is, of course, impossible. However, in the upper layers of the atmosphere at an altitude of 50 – 60 kilometers, conditions suitable for life arise: there is almost earthly pressure and room temperature.
It is believed that microorganisms can exist in the Venusian clouds. The atmosphere contains sulfuric acid, a small amount of water, chlorine, sulfur, phosphorus and other elements that bacteria can use for food.
But this hypothesis began to be challenged by other scientists. They believe that there is too little phosphine on the planet – the supporters of habitable Venus simply made a mistake with the calculations. And there is only one way to find out the truth: fly in and look for tiny aliens by hand.
Venus could have been like Earth in the past
In addition to the search for life, one must fly there in order to solve another mystery vital to us. Venus and Earth are twin planets. They have the same size and gravity on the surface of the neighbor is 90 percent of the earth.
In addition, both planets are in the habitable zone, and calculations show that oceans of water once splashed on Venus. However, if the Earth is a heavenly planet for life, then a shaped hell reigns in the neighborhood today.
And it is extremely important for humanity to understand what went wrong on Venus? Why did the greenhouse effect, which is weak on Earth, lead to monstrous consequences on Venus? Because these catastrophic events can be repeated on our planet at any moment.
In addition, Venus represents for us a unique “working model” of an exoplanet. To date, more than five thousand such planets have been discovered near distant stars, some of them are similar to the Earth and Venus.
For the second year in orbit, the James Webb Space Telescope, which was launched specifically for the study of exoplanets, has been in orbit. And on the example of Venus, we can learn to distinguish “living” planets from “non-living”, even if they are at a distance of tens of light years from us.