In search of the secrets of Venus, Earth’s evil twin

Three new missions will be launched by NASA and the European Space Agency in the next ten-year period to study Venus

Why is Venus called Earth’s evil twin? The planet is our closest neighbour and is almost as big as the Earth. Both are formed in the same inner part of the solar system and made out of the same materials.

But, during the course of time, they went through two different paths of evolution. To understand why Venus and Earth turned out to be so different, three new missions will be launched by NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) in the next ten year period.

Venus is the second planet from the Sun and is one of the four inner, rocky planets of the solar system. It has a thick, deadly atmosphere filled with carbon dioxide and is covered with clouds of sulfuric acid that trap heat, causing greenhouse effect. It’s the hottest planet in the solar system, even though Mercury is closer to the Sun.

Venus rotates backward on its axis

Surface temperatures on Venus are about 900 degrees Fahrenheit (475 degrees Celsius). Venus has an air pressure at its surface, more than 90 times that of Earth. Venus rotates on its axis backward, therefore, on Venus, the Sun rises in the west and sets in the east like the Uranus.

Venus was the first planet to be explored by a spacecraft. after NASA’s Mariner 2 which flew by and scanned the cloud-covered world on Dec. 14, 1962. Since then, numerous spacecraft have explored Venus, including NASA’s Magellan, which mapped the planet’s surface with radar.

Soviet spacecraft made the most successful landings on the surface of Venus to date, but they didn’t survive long due to the extreme heat and crushing pressure. An American probe, one of NASA’s Pioneer Venus Multiprobes, survived for about an hour after impacting the surface in 1978.

Probing Earth’s evil twin

Three new missions to Venus announced are VERITAS, DAVINCI (both by NASA) and EnVision (by ESA). While VERITAS will not happen earlier than December 2027, it will orbit Venus, gathering data to reveal how the paths of Venus and Earth diverged, and how Venus lost its potential to be a habitable world.

Launched in the late 2020s, DAVINCI will explore the top of Venus’s atmosphere first and then will drop a probe to the surface. EnVision will make high-resolution measurements of the planet’s surface features using Synthetic Aperture Radar, which will be provided by NASA.

Sanjeev Ramachandran

A journalist with 23 years of experience, Sanjeev has worked with reputed media houses such as Business Standard, The Ne More »

Leave a Reply

Back to top button