In recent years, planetary scientists have been setting their sites on Venus, the other planet outside Earth that has received the most attention. The strange planet with its high temperatures and incredible surface pressure will be the site for two upcoming NASA missions and one European Space Agency mission in the next decade, as well as a private space mission from a New Zealand-based company.

More information about the planned mission to Venus was published in the journal. It will be the first private mission to Venus and will use a rocket and a satellite.

Illustration of Rocket Lab's mission to Venus.
Illustration of Rocket Lab’s mission to Venus. Rocket Lab

The purpose of the mission is to find out if anything could live in the thick clouds of Venus. In 2020 a study suggested that there could be phosphine in the Venusian clouds. The indicator was thought to be sulfur dioxide, a gas not related to life. As the planet was once similar to Earth, the potential for life on it has been debated.

A probe with an instrument called an autofluorescing nephelometer will be used to investigate the atmosphere of Venus.

When the Electron rocket launches in May of 2023, it will carry the Photon spacecraft into space and then it will separate and travel to Venus. The probe will fall through the atmosphere and send data back to Earth once it arrives in October of 2023. This plan is similar to NASA's DAVINCI mission to Venus, in which a probe will be sent through the planet's atmosphere, with more extensive instruments.

The Venus cloud particles have not been probed directly in nearly forty years. Breakthrough science is possible even with the limited time in the Venus atmosphere and the mass and data rate constraints. Evidence of life or habitability in the Venusian clouds is the overarching science goal.

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