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ISRO’s Venus Mission

Context:

Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) Venus mission, Shukrayaan I may be postponed to 2031. ISRO’s Venus mission was expected to be launched in December 2024.

Relevance:

GS-III: Science and Technology (Space Technology and advancements in Space Technology)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Venus
  2. Observations and explorations of Venus
  3. What does the Shukrayaan-I Mission entail?

About Venus

  • Venus is the second planet from the Sun and is the brightest natural object in Earth’s night sky after the Moon. It can cast shadows and can be seen with the naked eye on rare occasions, even during daylight.
  • Venus has a unique rotation pattern, where the Sun rises in the west and sets in the east. This is because it rotates in the opposite direction (East to West/Clockwise) to all but Uranus.
  • Venus has the densest atmosphere of the four terrestrial planets, consisting of more than 96% carbon dioxide. This causes a strong greenhouse effect, making Venus the hottest planet in the Solar System despite being farther from the Sun than Mercury.
  • The atmospheric pressure at the planet’s surface is about 92 times that of Earth’s sea level pressure.
  • Venus is covered by an opaque layer of highly reflective clouds made of sulfuric acid, which prevents its surface from being seen in visible light.
  • The planet lacks a planetary magnetic field, which caused the water to photo dissociate and the free hydrogen to be swept into interplanetary space by the solar wind.
  • Venus has been a significant fixture in human culture for as long as records have existed.

Observations and explorations of Venus

Early Exploration:
  • Due to its proximity to Earth, Venus has been a prime target for early interplanetary exploration.
  • It was the first planet beyond Earth visited by a spacecraft (Mariner 2 in 1962), and the first to be successfully landed on (by Venera 7 in 1970).
  • Venus’s thick clouds render observation of its surface impossible in visible light, and the first detailed maps did not emerge until the arrival of the Magellan orbiter in 1991.
  • Plans have been proposed for rovers or more complex missions, but they are hindered by Venus’s hostile surface conditions.
Methods of Observation:
  • Observations of the planet Venus include those in antiquity, telescopic observations, and from visiting spacecraft.
  • Spacecraft have performed various flybys, orbits, and landings on Venus, including balloon probes that floated in the atmosphere of Venus.
  • After the Moon, Venus was the second object in the Solar System to be explored by radar from the Earth.
Missions to Venus:
  • Ten Soviet probes have achieved a soft landing on the surface, with up to 110 minutes of communication from the surface, all without return.
  • U.S.’s missions to Venus: Mariner series 1962-1974, Pioneer Venus 1 and Pioneer Venus 2 in 1978, Magellan in 1989.
  • Russia’s mission to Venus: Venera series of space crafts 1967-1983, Vegas 1 and 2 in 1985.
  • Japan’s Akatsuki was launched in 2010, however, the orbital insertion maneuver failed and the spacecraft was left in heliocentric orbit.
  • Venus Express was a mission by the European Space Agency to study the atmosphere and surface characteristics of Venus from orbit.

Significance of Exploring Venus

  • It will help to learn how Earth-like planets evolve and what conditions exist on Earth-sized exoplanets (planets that orbit a star other than our sun).
  • It will help in modelling Earth’s climate, and serves as a cautionary tale on how dramatically a planet’s climate can change.

What does the Shukrayaan-I Mission entail?

  • After dispatching similar missions to the Moon and Mars, Shukrayaan will be India’s first orbiter mission to Venus.
  • The mission’s goal is to investigate the surface of our solar system’s hottest planet and decipher the mysteries hidden beneath the Sulphuric Acid clouds that surround it.
  • The orbiter is the third mission to Venus, following NASA’s announcement of two probes and the European Space Agency’s announcement of a spacecraft.
  • The probes will travel the globe in search of clues to the destructive past of Earth’s strange twin, which scientists believe previously had massive water reserves similar to our own.
  • The ISRO plans to launch in December 2024, with orbital manoeuvres scheduled for the following year.
  • When the earth and Venus are perfectly aligned, the spaceship can be placed in the orbit of the neighbouring planet with the least quantity of propellant.
Objectives
  • Investigation of the surface processes and shallow sub-surface stratigraphy, including active volcanic hotspots and lava flows
  • Studying the structure, composition, and dynamics of the atmosphere
  • Investigation of solar wind interaction with the Venusian Ionosphere

-Source: Indian Express


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