First private mission to Venus: Rocket Lab will search for signs of life in the planet’s atmosphere
Rocket Lab is not as well-known as SpaceX or Virgin Galactics, however, it’s quite ambitious. The company, which owns one of the smallest orbital rockets on Earth, intends to search for life in the clouds of Venus.
On August 16 Rocket Lab announced that it will finance the development and launch of a small spacecraft. During the mission, it is planned that the probe will fly through the clouds of Venus at an altitude of 48 to 60 km above its surface. Although the planet’s surface is unfriendly to life due to excess carbon dioxide, crushing pressure, and extreme temperatures, Venus’ clouds have pressures similar to Earth’s, and conditions could be favorable for life.
Rocket Lab assumes that their rocket Electron which is only 18 meters long and can carry about 300 kg, will bring the spacecraft into Earth’s orbit. Next, the upper stage of the Photon rocket will go to Venus. After reaching the planet, it will drop a probe weighing about 20 kg into its atmosphere.
Tiny like deep space probes, it will carry about 1 kg of scientific equipment. Its purpose is to search for organic substances in the clouds and investigate their viability. The probe is expected to pass through the clouds in 5 minutes and 30 seconds and then should continue transmitting data as it descends lower to the surface.
“The mission is the first opportunity to probe the Venus cloud particles directly in nearly four decades. Even with the mass and data rate constraints and the limited time in the Venus atmosphere, breakthrough science is possible,” says the article which describes the future mission.