OTD in Space – Nov. 8: Europe Launches Its 1st Mission to Venus

8th November 2018

On November 8, 2005, Europe launched its first mission to Venus. The spacecraft was called Venus Express. Venus is a hothouse planet. Lava flows on its surface, and the atmospheric pressure can easily crush an unprotected spacecraft. Even from orbit, Venus Express had to survive harsh radiation. But the spacecraft lasted for more than 9 years. During that time, it saw a weird vortex spiraling around Venus’s south pole. It also saw possible signs of active volcanoes. Venus Express also discovered that the planet generates its own auroras. These auroras happen when particles from the sun hit charged particles in the atmosphere. Late in the Venus Express mission, controllers told the spacecraft to dip down into Venus’s clouds — even though the spacecraft wasn’t designed to do this. It performed well, but eventually it stopped listening to commands. The spacecraft burned up in the atmosphere in January 2015.