Astronomy

Why its Difficult to Land Probes on Venus



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"Why its Difficult to Land Probes on Venus"
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Venus is a beautiful sight to see in the evening or morning hours. Except for the sun and moon, this planet is the brightest object in the sky. Venus can easily be mistaken for an aircraft or a bright light on a tower and can even be seen in broad daylight, provided one knows exactly where to look. This world is almost the same size as Earth and also mankind's closest planetary neighbor, so it stands to reason that one would think this planet would be an ideal candidate for exploration.

Yet, there's a problem, and a big one at that. It's quite difficult to land anything there. When taking into consideration that probes sent to this planet are only capable of sending information for a short time before failing, a manned mission is decidedly out of the question. So why do space scientists have such a tough time sending anything there in the first place?

Venus may be a pretty spectacle to the human eye, but this so-called sister planet to Earth also happens to be one of the most hellish places in this solar system! First of all, the atmosphere of Venus is practically opaque due to an immense cloud cover. This creates a surface pressure some 92 times that of Earth. In addition to this pressure, the clouds result in a greenhouse effect, or a trapping of the sun's heat. The surface temperature is about 480 degrees Celsius or 900 degrees Fahrenheit, which is warm enough to melt lead. Thus, when a spacecraft is launched to this planet, it has to be able to withstand this intense atmospheric pressure and heat.

The early efforts by both the former Soviet Union and the US were quite dismal because the Venusian atmosphere was simply too much for these  spacecraft to endure. In regard to the American Mariner missions, imaging through the thick atmosphere was very limited. These problems continued well into the 1980s, but radar mapping has been somewhat successful, particularly by the joint Soviet Venera 15 and 16 missions of 1983.

In a 2011 article published in Scientific American, which can be found here, it was stated that planetary scientists perceive that NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) holds a bias against exploration of Venus. But.....with billions of taxpayer's dollars being spent in the past on missions that have rendered very limited data due to premature failure, such a bias, if genuine, is justified. Certainly, much has yet to be learned, particularly why two planets such as Venus and Earth have turned out so differently, but until a spacecraft can be constructed that will endure the extreme conditions found on this inhospitable world, isn't it sufficient enough to know that Venus is a place to avoid?


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