Venus Probe Will Dive to Its Death

? Venus Planet

After more than eight years orbiting Earth’s cloud-shrouded neighbor, ESA’s Venus Express is finally nearing the end of its fuel reserves — and thus the end of its mission — and will soon complete its journey with a suicidal swan dive into the broiling planet’s acid-laden atmosphere.

Seeing an opportunity for more investigations (Venus Express is the only spacecraft around Venus, after all) scientists are planning to use this final phase of the mission to attempt an experimental aerobraking maneuver, which will drop the lowest point of the spacecraft’s orbit to within 130 kilometers — about 80 miles — of the planet’s surface.

In addition to furthering knowledge of Venus, the data gathered will be useful for future exploration missions that may use aerobraking to establish orbit or land on a planet’s surface.

The dive is planned for June 18 – July 11 ( via ).