A probe to the solar system's most hellish planet is set for launch later today in Japan. If all goes well, the Japanese Akatsuki probe, about the size of a small car, should reach the second planet by December, where it will study the sulfuric acid clouds of the Venusian atmosphere.
Launch time is set for 6:15 a.m. Tuesday in Japan -- about 5:15 p.m. Eastern time Monday. Akatsuki means "dawn" in Japanese, a nod to Venus' status as the morning star in that part of the world. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, JAXA, which developed the probe, is calling it the first meteorological satellite on another world.
Attempts to study Venus from the ground up have failed after a couple hours because the place is so utterly inhospitable. Intense heat and pressure cook any probes lucky enough to land on the surface -- the record for surface survival is 127 minutes, held by the Russian probe Venera 13, which landed March 1, 1982. Many other probes never even made it to the ground, succumbing to intense atmospheric pressures during descent.
But surviving in the upper atmosphere is a little easier. Akatsuki will fly in an equatorial orbit between the atmosphere's top layers to an altitude of about 50,000 feet, where it will study Venus' violent winds and acid clouds. Instruments on board will look for volcanic activity, which scientists recently said may be much more recent than previously thought.
It also has a high-speed camera that aims to capture lightning, which is presumed to occur on Venus but has never been observed directly.
The probe will work in concert with the European Space Agency's Venus Express satellite, which has been in a polar orbit around Venus since 2006.
Scientists like to study Venus because it is so much like Earth; the planets formed in similar ways. It's also an example of a runaway greenhouse effect -- the atmosphere is almost entirely made of carbon dioxide, keeping the planet super-hot -- and scientists think it can illuminate aspects of Earth's own atmospheric evolution.
Akatsuki is riding to space along with another probe, a solar sail called Ikaros that aims to prove the sun can be used for interplanetary propulsion.
I'm curious how a solar sail would work with this. Isn't the concept that the protons the sun releases hit the sail and it is propelled? Then how could they use it to go towards the sun..? Maybe it will be just using it at a side angle to catch Venus in orbit, idk
Who says that the solar sail is going towards the Sun? The Venus probe and the sail are two different things, they are simply launced at the same time. The Venus probe goes to Venus and the sail goes to somewhere where the sun don't shine.
Japan is great. I bet investing in JAXA woulad be a good deal.
Oh, I was under the impression they were using the solar sail to get to Mercury, hence towards the sun. If it's a separate mission that just uses the same launch, then that clears that up.
The article was very seriously garbled.
The article stated that: "But surviving in the upper atmosphere is a little easier. Akatsuki will fly in an equatorial orbit between the atmosphere's top layers to an altitude of about 50,000 feet, where it will study Venus' violent winds and acid clouds."
The craft will not (and obviously cannot) orbit WITHIN Venus' atmosphere at fifty thousand feet with a velocity of 20,000 km/hr or so. It would vaporize.
The craft will be way higher, in an elliptical orbit ranging from 300 km to 80,000 km above the surface (dipping roughly as low as the orbit of ISS space station around the Earth and rising roughly to twice the height of communication satellites).
The IKAROS solar sail apparently has no real end target and will simply demonstrate the technology for at least 1/2 a year as it flies generally towards Venus.
A solar sail CAN be used to move towards the sun. Since the sail itself is in orbit around the sun, by angling the sail so that it slows the orbital velocity, the sail will "fall" towards the sun. Conversely, by increasing the orbital velocity, the satellite will accelerate to a higher orbit. And dontbother is right, they are two separate payloads on the same rocket.
Terraforming Venus? Ok, I would have to say that any planet we could terraform it would not be Venus. For one, millions of years? would that even be worth it? Im going to asume that in 1 or 2 million years(if we are still around) we will have the means to travel to planets outside of our solar system that are already perfect for us, Gliese 581c is 20.5 LY away and is a good option. Secondly, Venus' atmosphere is insanley volatile, sulphuric acid, CO2, intense heat, who really knows if that is even worth attempting to change. And again, Venus is much closer to the Sun which means that even with a similar atmosphere as ours, Venus would be incredibly hot.
Bewtween Mars and Venus, terraforming is not a good option. But for colonizing, Mars is at least somewhat hospitable in the fact that its not blazing hot and toxic.
It would be very cool to find out if Venus is still volcanically active, might give us alot of insight as to where most of the CO2 is from.
im curious as to why we are wasting so much of earths resources.
when we build a rocket and head it toward space, then use up all the fuel so we cant turn around, its lost forever and we cant regain the lost materials.
The assumption here is that eventually, we will be able to go out and retrieve all craft/satellites that were left out there.
Even if we dont reclaim those materials, if we dont try (and at the same time waste those materials), then we will never get off this planet.
Not to say that we shouldnt find better methods, but you have to start somewhere.
@setarip Venus is within the Goldilocks zone of Sol. The main issue is the runaway greenhouse effect, but like wowflie said, if we were able to terraform it, Venus could be habitable. I would imagine we could colonize it easier than packing up an insane amount of materials for intersolar-system space travel.
Coolhand, Last time I checked, it was'nt.
I can guarentee that the resources for terraforming ANY planet, would use much more resources then building a ship that can take us to a already habitable planet. And yes, in 1 million years, I can be almost 100% sure we will have figured out warp drives(which are theoretically possible) or other High c or FTL propulsion systems. Terrafroming Venus would be a monumental waste of time and resources. Studying the planet is completely different and worth the effort.
Unfortunately I don't have a source, but I saw it in a NASA video that they considered our solar system to have 2 planets in the habitable zone, Mars not being one of them. Oh well though, I won't see terraforming or warp drives within my lifetime.
@Setarip regardless of it being in the zone, if we can make it act like it's in the zone by some means and actually make it habitable, it would be my choice. Even if we have the ability to travel to other planets that would be better choices, which do you think will be the better trip to visit the family back home, a planet in our solar system, or one 20 light years away. If it takes a lot of resources to terraform venus but its a short trip using fairly little resources to go back and forth, will it be better than using less resources to terraform a planet that is lightyears away or no terraforming at all, but have to travel to and from. the far off planets seem nice for a base of science, military, permanent moves. I like the idea of being able to move to another planet and move back or visit one day.
fascinating stuff. I hope that high speed camera captures some Venutian lightening.