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semi-transparent eye

Space probe unlocks mysteries of Earth's evil twin

Posted by sim_james on 2006.04.11 at 23:28
Current Location: Darmstadt
A space probe the size of a Mini negotiated the interplanetary equivalent of a handbrake turn to swing into orbit around Venus this morning and begin a 486-day study of Earth's nearest neighbour.

In contrast to the typical missions to discover whether there is life on Mars, scientists based at the European Space Agency (ESA) in Germany launched the £140 million operation in an attempt to establish why there is no life on Venus.

The unmanned craft Venus Express, built in Stevenage and launched from a space station in Kazakhstan in November, will attempt to solve the mystery of the planet's inhospitable climate.

Although almost identical in size to the Earth, and lying within the band of the Sun's radiation where water can exist, Venus suffers the worst global warming in the solar system. Its surface temperatures of 460C are enough to melt lead, atmospheric pressure is 100 times greater and burning sulphuric acid rain pours from noxious chemical clouds.

Dr Coates said: "Venus is our nearest neighbour but it is also our nightmare. But we will try to find out why it’s like that. We will be able to study the lower atmosphere and Venus for the first time. Venus has evolved into our evil twin and we will be able to try and see why."

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