Press Release

Venus Probe Mission approved by Steering Committee for Space Science Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS), Japan

By SpaceRef Editor
August 28, 2001
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An image of Venus orbiter looking through the dense Venusian atmosphere with infrared rays. Bird’s eye view of swirling clouds, thunder and the ground surface at dawn. The clouds are rapidly drifted by the windstorm blowing at a speed of 100m/s. A white fountain-like phenomenon over a sea of clouds depicts an electric discharge connecting thunderclouds and the ionosphere. Seen trailing horizontally around Venus are an aurora and airglow (atmospheric phenomenon that emits light due to chemical reactions).

Though often referred to as Earth’s sister planet in terms of size and
mass, Venus is now a totally different planet from Earth. Its temperature
is high at 470°C and atmospheric pressure at 100, and besides it has the
characteristic atmosphere revolving at a very high speed (super rotation)
and thick sulfuric acid clouds. Wrapping itself in an aura of mystery,
Venus twinkles in the sky enticingly. At the Steering Committee for Space
Science meeting held on May 10, the Venus probe mission was approved as an
official ISAS project.

The main purpose of this probe is to elucidate the mystery of the Venusian
atmospheric super rotation. To achieve this end, the flow of clouds will be
photographed by several cameras onboard the Venus orbiter, which can be
called the Venusian version of the weather satellite Himawari. The
scorching temperatures of the Venusian atmosphere composed mainly of carbon
dioxide will also be measured.

As byproducts of the probe, the presence of active volcanoes and thunder
will be made clear. We are also planning to conduct detailed investigations
into the atmosphere escaping from Venus utilizing onboard instruments other
than cameras.

The sounding rocket with the weight of 650kg (fuel weight of 320kg
included) is scheduled to be launched in February 2007, and after a
swing-by around the Earth in June 2008, it will fly to Venus. After its
arrival at Venus in September 2009, we expect to be able to send pictures
of Venus’ moving clouds to your TV.

At present, over seven probe missions to Venus are under consideration
throughout the world. When they are realized, complementary researches
shall be conducted exchanging data between foreign and Japanese spacecraft.
We expect to take the leadership in this area using our advanced knowledge
in Atmospheric Dynamics as leverage.

In order to be fully equipped to start this mission next year, we first
have to have our budget approved by the government as well as to promote
publicity in order to gain public support and understanding in Space
Science centering on the Venus probe mission. In October this year, an
international Venus workshop funded by the International Symposium Fund of
the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology will be
held at ISAS inviting domestic and overseas Venus researchers.

SpaceRef staff editor.