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Updated January 26th, 2024 at 18:01 IST

ESA Announces New Ambitious Missions to Study Venus & Gravitational Waves Starting 2031

ESA has announced two new ambitious space missions which are targeted for launch in the 2030s to study Venus and gravitational waves.

Harsh Vardhan
Venus
Representational image of the Venus Express. | Image: ESA
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The European Space Agency (ESA) has announced two new space missions which are targeted for launch in the 2030s. The first is EnVision that will study Venus from it's inner core to outer atmosphere. EnVision is targeted for launch in 2031 whereas the second mission LISA, short for Laser Interferometer Space Antenna, will be launched in 2035 to detect and study gravitational waves.

Mission EnVision

The mission EnVision was selected in 2021 and it has now been adopted, meaning the study phase is complete and ESA will now develop it via a concrete plan. With EnVision, scientists will try to learn more about Venus's history, geological activity and climate.

Although it is called Earth's twin, Venus is not even close to our planet in terms of habitability. It has an average surface temperature of 464°C and the air pressure there is 92 times greater than that on Earth. Scientists will seek answers on how Venus became so hostile through EnVision.

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Graphical representation of EnVision mission's objectives. Image: ESA

 

The mission will be carried out using an orbiter that will collect data on Venus's crust, mantle and core while studying the weather and climate and factors that affect them.

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EnVision will be the second Venus mission by ESA, the first being Venus Express which lasted from 2005 to 2014. The agency says that it was the Venus Express that discovered volcanic hotspots on the planet.

It also revealed that Venus spins a little slower than previous estimates but the winds in its upper atmosphere have become faster. The retired orbiter also found ozone gas and cold conditions for snow formation high in the planet's atmosphere.

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Mission LISA

The LISA mission has also been adopted and it will actually be a constellation of three spacecraft. ESA says they will trail Earth in its orbit in a triangular formation whose each side will measure 2.5 million km and the spacecraft will exchange laser beams.

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The idea is to place two free-floating golden cubes inside the three probes which will help in detecting gravitational waves.

Graphical representation of LISA's position in space. Image: ESA

 

According to ESA, ripples of gravitational waves through spacetime alter the distance between two objects in space and if that happens, there will be changes in the distance between the cubes.

"Gravitational waves will cause tiny changes in the distances between the masses in the different spacecraft, and the mission will track these variations using laser interferometry," the agency said. The said changes in the distance will be tracked down to a few billionths of a millimeter between the cubes using the laser beams.

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Moreover, the LISA mission will also detect gravitational waves resulting from black hole mergers and even "offer a direct glimpse into the very first seconds after the Big Bang." It will also detect many merging pairs of compact objects like white dwarfs or neutron stars and teach scientists more about their evolution. 
 

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Published January 26th, 2024 at 18:01 IST

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