On the hunt for phosphine: Rocket Lab announces mission to Venus for 2023

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On the hunt for phosphine: Rocket Lab announces mission to Venus for 2023

The private aerospace company Rocket Lab, which specializes in launching satellite payloads, said – leaving everyone a little surprised – that it intends to organize a mission with destination Venus, in particular the “hardened” atmospheric zone of the planet, where traces of phosphine have been found.

Linking to the recent announcement made by the Royal Astronomical Society, the CEO and founder of Rocket Lab Peter Beck stated that his company is absolutely ready and eager to embark on an incredible adventure: bring their own tools and knowledge up to the clouds of Venus, to find out as much as possible about the phosphine found by the researchers, a possible (but certainly not) sign of Venusian microbial life.

The mission should start in 2023, still according to the words of the founder, which would make it an absolute record project: to explore the area of ​​Venus in question, in fact, very sensitive and at the same time very resistant instruments could be needed (given the prohibitive environment even of the “tempered “). A mission that contemplates the existence of a “sounding balloon” that can remain at high altitude for a long period of time should see the light not earlier than 20 years (also because the attention of many space companies was concentrated almost exclusively on Mars); Peter Beck however has in mind a different project, which could greatly shorten the time despite the skepticism of some.

Rocket Lab aims to use its flagships: theElectron (its two-stage lightweight launcher) and the Photon (a sort of “satellite bus” capable of sending several probes to different points). The plan is to bring the Photon into a Venus fly-by at a very narrow angle, so as to allow the vehicle to spend as much time as possible in the belt of Venus’s atmosphere. The biggest drawback of this maneuver is that, a probe already equipped with a very high relative speed (at least 39 thousand km / h) – passing almost like a knife into the atmosphere – would encounter a notable friction, being able to bring everything to burn in seconds.

We will have enough time to make all the necessary measurements”He reported the CEO of the company, “I thought the odds of finding something interesting were incredibly low, while now I think the odds have much improved given the recent phosphine. I think whatever discoveries we make – positive or negative – will still be of enormous scientific importance“.

The 2023 mission is expected to be entirely privately funded, and could cost as little as $ 5 million. A really low cost. May it be a concrete plan or not, only time will tell us, but the fact is that Rocket Lab has recently made excellent progress and in 2021 will prune a satellite in lunar orbit for NASA.