May 17, 2014 - After more than eight years orbiting Earthâ€™s cloud-shrouded neighbor, ESAâ€™s Venus Express
is finally nearing the end of its fuel reserves â€” and thus the end of its mission
â€” and will soon complete its journey with a suicidal swan dive into the broiling planetâ€™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 spacecraftâ€™s orbit to within 130 kilometers â€” about 80 miles â€” of the planetâ€™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 planetâ€™s surface.
The dive is planned for June 18 â€“ July 11.
Venus Express, currently the only spacecraft orbiting our nearest planetary neighbor, will soon meet a fiery end in Venus' atmosphere. According to a press release from the European Space Agency today , its science mission has ended. But its work isn't over yet. Just as NASA did with the Magellan Venus orbiter, ESA will maneuver Venus Express to...