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Venus Probe Set to Reach Target 141

Posted by Zonk
from the venus-or-bust dept.
Accommodate Students writes "The BBC is reporting on the first space mission to Venus in a decade, which is about to reach its target. From the article: 'On Tuesday morning, a European robotic craft will perform a 50-minute-long engine burn to slow its speed enough to be captured by Venus' gravity. Venus Express will orbit our nearest planetary neighbour for about 500 Earth days to study its atmosphere, which has undergone runaway greenhouse warming.' If all goes well, it could shed important light on climate change here on Earth."
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Venus Probe Set to Reach Target

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  • fp (Score:3, Funny)

    by Elitist_Phoenix (808424) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @05:27AM (#15104382)
    I'd give venus a probing with my "first post"
    • Re:fp (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      90 atmospheres is nice and tight, but your probe tends to get crushed and melted before the mission's "climax"...
  • by Wellington Grey (942717) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @05:31AM (#15104386) Homepage Journal
    I notice that the article calls Venus `Earth's Evil Twin'. Does that mean we can expect the probe to detect a large goatee on the surface?

    -Grey [wellingtongrey.net]
    • For some reason I read that as a large goat.cx on the surface.

      Oh and I should mention that this is a dupe [slashdot.org].
    • Does that mean we can expect the probe to detect a large goatee on the surface?

      It will not be seen on the pictures because it has a VEIL pattern all over it, and therefore the cameras will switch themselves off as soon as it would be in the image.
    • I notice that the article calls Venus `Earth's Evil Twin'.

      They're just saying that to justify the invasion by this spacecraft before the full scale attack.
    • Whoa, now I know I've been browsing Slashdot to long. Whe I first read that I though it said "detect a large goatse on the surface" I need to lay off the caffine...
  • Judging from the climate, we can safely guess how the last elections on Venus went like. However, Veneral Republican Party spokesman said: "Global warming is just an unproven myth".

    We are also sure that Democrats don't rule Mars, either -- they haven't yet ran out of sand.
    • Really, who's to say that Venus hasn't cooled over the years? Sure, CO2 may keep it quite hot, but it doesn't necessitate that the planet is getting warmer

      It's just another term that's misused in libby propoganda. Nothing to see here, move along, report to Minitru for re-education.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @05:43AM (#15104415)
    Who chooses these names? 'Venus Express' sounds like the name of a low class Berlin nightclub.
    • It was picked because the mission was planned, built and launched within a relatively small space of time (around 4 years?) whereas normally they take a few years longer than that. :) So the name was the giving themselves a pat on the back for working efficiently and being able to carry it off.
      • To expand: Rosetta, then Mars Express and then Venus Express are all very similar, and follow the new principle of Faster, Cheaper, Better (and if you say "pick any 2" the PR depeartment wil be round to re-educate you !).

        (Compare and contrast with Envisat.)
      • It was picked because the mission was planned, built and launched within

        ... a low class Berlin nightclub.

    • 'Venus Express' sounds like the name of a low class Berlin nightclub
      It sure beats the original name of Venus Muff Diver.
  • Moons (Score:1, Interesting)

    by MichaelSmith (789609)

    From TFA:

    Moons venus: 0 earth: 1

    I remember an old theory that the moon keeps Earth from boiling over by sweeping away much of the atmosphere over time. I wonder if this is still considered a significant factor?

    Its worth noting that the moons of Mars are in much lower orbits than our moon, and mars has much less of an atmosphere than earth.

    • Re:Moons (Score:5, Funny)

      by jolyonr (560227) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @06:00AM (#15104447) Homepage
      As far as we can tell, Mars has far fewer pirates than the Earth - this may also be a factor in the planet's weak atmosphere. We believe there are no pirates at all on the Moon.

      Perhaps the surface of Venus is covered in pirates - that could explain its thick dense atmosphere.

      Jolyon
      • Re:Moons (Score:3, Insightful)

        by slavemowgli (585321)
        Doesn't the existence of pirates *counteract* global warming, though? If anything, the fact that Venus is such a furnace indicates that there aren't any pirates on there.

        If this mission confirms that this is indeed the case, it'll be further evidence that the gospel of the FSM is indeed correct.
        • And if the mission fails to confirm it, it will be because FSM has changed the results with His Noodly Appendage! Sweet!
      • Pirates ... From Space

        OMG!!! Pirates!!!
      • Perhaps the surface of Venus is covered in pirates

        If so, Edgar Rice Burroughs [barnesandnoble.com] was more accurate than he thought. If so, there's a lot of grand adventure waiting for us on the Hidden Planet!

    • Re:Moons (Score:5, Interesting)

      by khayman80 (824400) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @06:15AM (#15104471) Homepage Journal
      I remember an old theory that the moon keeps Earth from boiling over by sweeping away much of the atmosphere over time. I wonder if this is still considered a significant factor?

      I've heard the same thing... in science fiction novels. Larry Niven, I believe. It may be true, but I've never seen any comprehensive explanation of how this is supposed to occur. Does the atmosphere somehow leak away on geological timescales through the Lagrange points somehow? I've got no idea. Does anyone know?

      This idea does appeal to me, though, because if true it adds another factor to the Drake equation for finding *earthlike* civilizations in the galaxy. According to the impactor theory of the moon's origin, the moon's creation was a very improbable event. Perhaps that's why we don't see any Dyson spheres- you not only need a planet in the liquid water region of a solar system, you need that planet to be whacked at a very particular angle to form a moon large enough to prevent a Venus from forming instead of an Earth.

      Its worth noting that the moons of Mars are in much lower orbits than our moon, and mars has much less of an atmosphere than earth.

      It's also worth noting that Mars' moons are TINY. Phoebos and Deimos are 22 and 12 km in diameter, respectively. They're utterly insignificant.

      Compare that to the Moon, which is comparable to Earth in both diameter (27% of the earth's) and to a lesser extent mass (1.2% of the earth's). In fact, some astronomers consider the Earth-moon system to be a double planet because of this fact.

      • Re:Moons (Score:3, Interesting)

        by The Fun Guy (21791)
        Without the moon, there would be no life on Earth.

        When that huge impact happened, what was blown off was most of the lighter, surface material of the early Earth. All of those light silicates eventually clumped up to form the moon, leaving a body with a much thinner crust and a higher overall proportion of heavy metals. This made it much easier for convection currents to run inside the Earth's core, allowing the creation of a magnetic field. This deflected the solar wind, protecting the Earth from most of t
        • >Tidal forces caused by the moon also pulled on the early Earth >atmosphere, causing it to expand upward beyond the protection of >the magnetic field. Once up there, the gases were swept away.

          Doubtful. Even when the moon was much closer than it is now I
          can't see how its gravity could have bodily lifted the atmosphere
          high enough to drag it out of the earths magnetic field. Even
          if the moon was right next to the earth it would still only
          pull 1/6 G which means the atmosphere would overall feel 5/6G.
          Not
          • The moon's gravity is strong enough to be felt at the Earth's surface even today. It's pretty weak, but it's still strong enough to lift up the water in the oceans, causing the tides you see every day. For that matter, the sun's gravity lifts the oceans [uwgb.edu], too.

            You don't have to have the moon pull all of the gases off the planet's surface, just act in a tidal action to loft them somewhat. 2.5 billion years ago, the moon was closer and the atmosphere was thicker. When the lunar tidal forces acted on the atmosph
            • Re:Moons (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Viol8 (599362)
              The earths magnetic field extends for thousands of miles. You'd
              have to extend it more than a fraction. Yes , the moon causes
              tides but at the very most they're about 10 metres. Take that as
              a percentage of average ocean depth (about 5km) and its nothing.
              At best the moon might make the atmosphere rise a few miles
              which is nothing like enough to pull it out of the magnetic field.
              • NASA has a page that you might find of interest. It's entitiled, "Solar wind blows some of Earth's atmosphere into space" [nasa.gov]. The point of the article is that when the atmosphere is made to extend above the Earth's magnetic field, the net result is loss of atmosphere.

                You're correct in observing that the atmosphere doesn't extend above the magnetic field... anymore. That part of the atmosphere which used to, is gone now.

                Too much atmosphere and the planet cooks in a runaway greenhouse. Too little atmosphere and
      • Does the atmosphere somehow leak away on geological timescales through the Lagrange points somehow? I've got no idea. Does anyone know?

        Some gases escape like H and He. Heavier modecules like N2, O2, CO2 do not. This [cwru.edu] talks about the process. The moon plays absolutely no role in helping earth retain atmosphere.

        According to the impactor theory of the moon's origin, the moon's creation was a very improbable event.

        I don't see why it is so improbable. Pluto has a much larger moon relative to its size t

      • I remember reading once (one of Asimov's non-fiction, I believe) that he considered the existance of a large moon a prerequisite to higher life forming. Aside from other issues mentioned around here, the large tides produced by the moon create a nice interface between sea and land that is sometimes wet, sometimes dry creating a habitat for creatures that can survive that environment and a steping stone into dry land.

        Without dry land you cannot easily have fire, and without fire you cannot easily have civ
    • Re:Moons (Score:4, Interesting)

      by SigILL (6475) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @06:30AM (#15104495) Homepage
      I remember an old theory that the moon keeps Earth from boiling over by sweeping away much of the atmosphere over time.

      No, but the Moon did slow down the rotation of the Earth by quite a bit. If Luna'd be lacking, Earth's surfaces would supposedly be battered by extremely strong winds.

      It's theorised that Venus' climate isn't caused by its lack of a moon but because it's rotating way too slow (I got the climate-link from Stephen Baxter's Space, but I'm sure it's well documented in astronomic science). It takes about 243 days for Venus to rotate around its axis, and it's even rotating in the opposite direction as most of the rest of the (Sol system) planets.
      • Does anyone know what the daytime / nighttime temperature variations are on Venus? How long, taking into account axial rotation and rotation around the Sun, is the venusian day and venusian night at different points on Venus?

        Are there regions in perpetual darkness or perpetual light? Is it possible that there are areas that are much lower temperature? Or perhaps a moving seasonal band of low temperature following the rotational cycle of the planet?

        Seems to me there might be some interesting possibi
        • Does anyone know what the daytime / nighttime temperature variations are on Venus?

          Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] mentions min/mean/max surface temperatures of -45.15 degC, 463.85 degC and 499.85 degC (-49.27 degF, 866.93 degF and 931.73 degF) respectively.

          Seems to me there might be some interesting possibilities for life on Venus due to it's slow rotation.

          Only if you're interested in a semi-nomadic lifestyle.

          There have been proposals to establish human colonies in the cloudtops of Venus, which are much more livable temperature-

      • I'm honestly curious why having the earth rotate faster would result in stronger winds? Since wind is driven by temperature differences within the atmosphere, wouldn't a faster spinning earth have more consistent temperatures across it due to a more even heating? It's all more complicated than I understand, for sure, but is there a basic explanation to why the slowing of rotation is important?

        Although I do remember arguing a few years back with a classmate who believed that wind was caused by the earth rota
        • Check out Coriolis Force in Google.
        • Re:Moons (Score:3, Insightful)

          by SigILL (6475)

          Since wind is driven by temperature differences within the atmosphere, wouldn't a faster spinning earth have more consistent temperatures across it due to a more even heating?

          You have a point. That sounds a lot more plausible than my explanation. I tried to find sources to back up my initial claim, but the only one I did find [starryskies.com] compared Earth to the much-faster rotating Jupiter and concluded that a faster-rotating Earth would have stronger surface winds. Doesn't sound like a very valid comparison to me, what

    • I remember an old theory that the moon keeps Earth from boiling over by sweeping away much of the atmosphere over time. I wonder if this is still considered a significant factor?

      I don't think that's possible. The atmosphere tapers off about 18 miles up. The moon is 240,000 miles up. At best it would shift the atmosphere a little bit off center.
    • An aside on moons (Score:2, Interesting)

      by geobeck (924637)

      Years ago, Isaac Asimov wrote an article called Just Mooning Around that I read in a collection called Of Time and Space and Other Things.

      In the article, Asimov calculated what he called the "tug-of-war ratio" for a particular satellite: the ratio of the sun's pull on a satellite to the primary's pull on that satellite. For Jupiter's satellites, for example, the Galilean moons are pulled much more strongly by Jupiter than by the Sun, whereas with the outer satellites Jupiter just barely wins the contest,

  • The Soviets (Score:2, Informative)

    by pubjames (468013)
    This looks like a good moment to remind everyone of the amazing missions to Venus [wikipedia.org] of the Russians. Sending back pictures from Venus in 1975 was an amazing achievement, and it's a great shame that we heard so little about it at the time.

    It's also a good time to remember that the USA government has always made out that they do not do "psyops" [wikipedia.org] on American citizens, but during the Cold War it is clear that they did. I fear that they are also doing so today with the new "Long war" [bbc.co.uk].
    • Re:The Soviets (Score:2, Informative)

      Wow,

      very interesting post pubjames. It seems like the soviets were obsessed with Venus, 16 probes for god sakes!

      We should point out that these missions preceded the viking missions to Mars, thus they were the first landings on another planet.
      • Re:The Soviets (Score:3, Informative)

        by Rolo Tomasi (538414)
        The thing is, before the Russians sent their probes there, scientists thought that Venus was just like Earth, only a bit more warm and humid, and that there were huge rainforests covering the planet's surface. That's why the Soviets thought that Venus would be the most worthwhile target - everyone thought it was habitable.

        Only when their first probe was crushed/cooked on descent, they realized that conditions there weren't that friendly after all.

        • What? maybe LONG before the probes. I'm pretty sure we had spectrometers and telescopes available before any of those probes were sent though.
          • Venus is completely covered in clouds, so a telescope or spectrometer won't tell you jack about the surface conditions. The fact is that until the Venera probes, most scientists thought that Venus could support human life.
      • We should point out that these missions [to Venus] preceded the viking missions to Mars, thus they were the first landings on another planet.
        Something well known to anyone with knowledge of space history beyond the Mass Media. (I.E. anyone who has read actual books.) They were first on Mars and the Moon too.
  • Proof! (Score:4, Funny)

    by aussie_a (778472) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @06:06AM (#15104455) Journal
    Venus Express will orbit our nearest planetary neighbour for about 500 Earth days to study its atmosphere, which has undergone runaway greenhouse warming.

    So if we don't find any SUVs on Venus, then we'll know once and for all that they DON'T cause greenhouse warming!
    • and if we do find SUV's on Venus, we'll know that any future NASA Venusian rovers will need to carry good auto insurance, and gas prices will probably be amazingly high...
  • more info (Score:5, Informative)

    by xott (815650) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @06:29AM (#15104491) Homepage
    more info can be found at the European Space Agency's website
    http://www.esa.int/SPECIALS/Venus_Express/index.ht ml [esa.int]
    and of course, at wikipedia
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venus_Express [wikipedia.org]
  • by Vandil X (636030) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @06:40AM (#15104514)
    I've heard a variety of theories that the cloudy sky of Venus may have conditions that could possibly support bacterial/microscopic life (in this case "extremophiles").

    I wonder of Venus Express will ever sample the Venusian atmosphere to see -- perhaps as an "Extended Extended Mission" as they deorbit the probe years from now.
  • Possibility of Life? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Kranfer (620510)
    While I hope I am not the only one to hope this, but I do hope that this new probe might shed some light on the possibility of life in the upper atmosphere of Venus. I seem tor ecall a few space.com astrobiology articles on how the upper astmosphere without its crushing presures and temperatures might be a cradle for micro-life. I know that Venus is not the only body in the solar system that might hold life, I guess Lo and Europa and Titan also hold the possibility with their large amounts if water, but I
  • Has arrived (Score:3, Informative)

    by Zoxed (676559) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @07:34AM (#15104621) Homepage
    s/Set to reach/Has reached it's/

    Europe Scores new Planetary Success [esa.int]
  • by amightywind (691887) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @08:13AM (#15104748) Journal

    If all goes well, it could shed important light on climate change here on Earth.

    It is difficult to see how. Venus slow rotation rate, massive atmosphere, tiny inclination (-3 deg), and lack of a hydrologic cycle should make the climate very stable. The mission has a lot of merits on its own. Why make tenuous comparisons?

    • Perhaps the intent was to insinuate that if we don't Act Soon, we'll end up just like Venus.
      • Perhaps the intent was to insinuate that if we don't Act Soon, we'll end up just like Venus.

        Don't you think that is an overreaching and absurd insinuation? Venus atmosphere is 96% CO2. Earth's is 0.0360% Doesn't Venus science have value beyond its political use by global warming enthusiasts?

    • But don't you see, Venus is just like Earth... The only difference is they have more greenhouse gases, the same ones that we put into the atmosphere. If were not careful, someday we might even end up like Mercury.

      Of course, evolution might give Monkeys wings, but we need to find life on IO to prove that.

      While I agree that our reliance on fossil fuels is akin to the relationship between tweakers and dealers, studying Venus gives us little to no insight on what is happening here. It will be a shame if they
    • Why make tenuous comparisons?

      Because it's an easy way to get more money.

      In times of huge deficits and out-of-control spending politicians want to appear tough on budgets but without cutting any pork. Pure science projects are therefore a prime target.

      By touting each probe as huge opportunity for important advances in climate science, medicine or whatever people (people with the power to approve budgets) care about they try to ensure continued funding of current and future projects

    • Venus slow rotation rate, massive atmosphere, tiny inclination (-3 deg), and lack of a hydrologic cycle should make the climate very stable. The mission has a lot of merits on its own. Why make tenuous comparisons?

      Oddly enough, some climatologists [realclimate.org] don't agree [realclimate.org] with you. Among other things, they are very interested in why the Venusian atmosphere rotates every 100 hours or so, even though Venus itself rotates every 243 days.

      • Oddly enough, some climatologists [realclimate.org] don't agree [realclimate.org] with you.

        I said that a Venus atmospheric mission has good scientific value. The general circulation, composition, photochemistry, long term variation, are all interesting phenomena. I just think it is a shame the science results, whatever they are, will be hijacked, hyped, filtered, and distorted by the Kyotoist propaganda machine. Despite disclaimers realclimate.org is a mouthpiece for that machine which is desperately se

  • They planned it yesterday [slashdot.org] and it already about to reach the target.
  • that it got there ok after the burn :)

    Go on ESA :)

    =V=
  • Why don't we have (Score:4, Insightful)

    by slapout (93640) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @09:15AM (#15105010)
    permanent satellites orbiting all the planets and giving us constant feedback?
    • by Damek (515688)
      Cost, as another poster mentioned. Not just the cost of building/launching/deliverying said satellites - but at the rate technology is improving, the satellites would be outdated incredibly soon, prompting scientists to want to send new satellites to answer new questions.

      It's more cost effective to send cheaper (less permanent design needs) single-shot probes to answer specific questions and gather specific data. Then when new questions arise from the data collected, and you would have to design & sen
  • "Venus Probe Set to Reach Target"

    And I'm sure when it gets there, it will shop to its heart's content.
  • grats! (Score:3, Informative)

    by argStyopa (232550) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @10:34AM (#15105571) Journal
    I just want to say congratulations on an apparently perfect orbit shot.

    NICE JOB ESA!

    http://www.esa.int/SPECIALS/Venus_Express/SEMY1SNF GLE_0.html [esa.int]
  • Check out http://www.mentallandscape.com/V_Venus.htm [mentallandscape.com] for an excellent archive of the Soviet exploration of Venus.

    Venera 9 [mentallandscape.com] sent image telemetry for 50 minutes. It scanned 174 of the panorama from left to right, and then 124 scanning right to left.

    They drilled, photographed, and used penetrometers on the surface. Each mission lasts a few hours to days before the atmosphere crumples the spacecraft like a soda can due to the pressure. Much different than life on Mars!
  • by RobertB-DC (622190) * on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @12:51PM (#15106676) Homepage Journal
    I've always been intrigued by the possibility of mining for commercially viable metals on Venus. The effort would be an order of magnitude more than mining on Earth, but some of the materials most in demand -- tantalum for capacitors [economist.com.na], for example -- are in limited supply in politically difficult locations. Not to mention the fact that the mining process tears up one of my favorite planets.

    According to this 2003 BBC article [bbc.co.uk]:
    The highlands of Venus are covered by a heavy metal "frost", say planetary scientists from Washington University.

    Because it is hot enough to melt lead at the surface, metals vaporise and condense at cooler, higher elevations.

    This may explain why radar observations made by orbiting spacecraft show that the highlands are highly reflective.

    Detailed calculations, to be published in the journal Icarus, suggest that lead and bismuth are to blame for giving Venus its bright, metallic skin.

    The article goes on to discuss lead and bismuth being the primary metals. Nobody's going to launch a mission to Venus to build a digestive elixir plant [pepto-bismol.com], but it seems entirely possible that the lead and bismuth might be "contaminated" with more interesting metals -- perhaps even in quantities large enough to be commericially interesting.
    • My first thought was 'great, we'll bring back more toxic materials so we can have fast computers.'

      But then I thought...why do we need to bring them back to earth? Ship them to the moon and run them supercool. Have the computers on the moon do the crunch for us lowly humans on Earth.

      What natural desaster is going to happen on the moon? The moon sounds like a great place to dump toxic equipment, over clock processors, and have offsite data storage. There is a bit of a lag time, but I'm just saying it would
  • My hats off to the ESA. In the 3 days since we first find out that ESA is planning to send a spacecraft to Venus [slashdot.org], the ESA has managed to build the thing, launch it, cross the distance between the Earth to Venus, and are now ready for orbital insertion. I'm amazed.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Great headline! Yeah, it's usually a good idea if space probes are set to reach their target. Helps accomplish the mission objectives. If it said "Venus probe set to reach Mercury", I'd be worried about the mission planners.
  • I wonder if anyone in the US outside of a few nerds will notice this accomplishment. NASA/JPL have become adept at getting results out quickly, even in realtime, via the web and satellite TV feeds. Our science museum routinely holds a "nerd party" viewing these events when they happen, thanks to NASA PR.

    Take for example the Mars probes. NASA puts its raw results on the website in a day or two of receiving them while ESA's trickle out months later, if at all.
  • If all goes well, it could shed important light on climate change here on Earth

    The problem is too much light, damnit! If those idiots keep shedding more, all will not be well.

If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the precipitate.

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