Venus is roughly the same size as the Earth, formed in the “Goldilocks” zone like Earth, but so completely different than Earth.
In 2006, the European Space Agency launched the Venus Express mission to answer some of the questions hidden beneath the cloudy veil of our sister planet. It took less than three years from approval to launch of the Venus Express mission. The ESA re-used the same design that was used in the Mars Express mission launched in 2003.
Scientists have been particularly interested in why Venus is the hottest planet in the solar system. Even though Mercury is much closer to the Sun, Venus is far hotter.
Other questions range from volcanic activity to the big one: Is there life on Venus?
Before you pooh-pooh the idea just because a cool day on Venus is over four times hotter than boiling water, and with winds of 220 mph and a crushing atmosphere 90 times that of Earths made mostly up of carbon dioxide (the same stuff that comes out of the tail-pipe of your car). Consider this:
At the very bottom of Earths deepest oceans, with no sunlight, a crushing amount of pressure near volcanic vents, there is a vast ecosystem teaming with life (for a more in depth article go here).
Most of the plant and animal life down this far use chemosynthesis instead of photosynthesis to survive. The life here is similar to life higher up, because they both use carbon dioxide and water to produce sugars. Photosynthesis gives off oxygen gas as a byproduct, while chemosynthesis produces sulfur. Luckily, I don’t believe anything has a sense of smell down there. Pheeewww!
Scientists are now recognizing that even life on Earth isn’t necessarily life as we know it. New classifications for life such as thermophiles and hyperthermophiles (shown above) thrive at temperatures above the boiling point of water, acidophiles thrive at a pH level of 3 or below, polyextremophiles can survive a varied number of extreme conditions, and many other types of extremophiles exist here on Earth. So, by drawing some parallels with this Terran ecosystem, you could actually find life on Venus.
|Spacecraft||Launch Date||Type of Mission|
|Mariner 2||1962||Flyby; first to fly by Venus|
|Venera 4||1967||Hard-lander; first to descend through atmosphere|
|Venera 7||1970||Soft-lander; first to soft land on surface|
|Mariner 10||1973||Flyby en route to Mercury|
|Venera 9||1975||Orbiter, soft-lander; first to return photos of surface|
|Venera 10||1975||Orbiter, soft-lander|
|Pioneer-Venus 1||1978||Orbiter with radar altimeter; first detailed radar mapping of surface|
|Pioneer-Venus 2||1978||Four hard-landers|
|Venera 11||1978||Flyby, soft-lander|
|Venera 12||1978||Flyby, soft-lander|
|Venera 13||1981||Orbiter, soft-lander; first color images of surface|
|Venera 14||1981||Orbiter, soft-lander|
|Venera 15||1983||Orbiter with radar mapper|
|Venera 16||1983||Orbiter with radar mapper|
|Vega 1||1984||Flyby, atmospheric balloon probe|
|Vega 2||1984||Flyby, atmospheric balloon probe|
|Magellan||1989||Orbiter with radar mapper; first high-resolution global map of Venus|
|Venus Express||2005||Orbiter studying the atmosphere, plasma environment, and surface of Venus|
However, the exploration of the Venusian surface will have to wait until we can develop compounds that can withstand the extreme conditions on Venus.
The Russians have sent the most probes to Venus and have landed, albeit briefly, on the surface. The probes don’t last too long, but they have reveled amazing data about our evilly hot twin. And at one point they claimed to have found life on the hot planet. Alas, it was not true, but it did make for good tabloid fodder.
With the discovery of past water on Mars and the potential for life on Venus, we may not need to look to far to find E.T., even if he is just a microbe.
– Ex astris, scientia –
I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney. As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +. If you need help with any patent, trademark, or copyright issue, or know someone that can use my help, please contact me for a free 30 minute consultation by sending me an email or call TOLL FREE at 1-855-UR IDEAS (1-855-874-3327) and ask for Norman.