Explained: What is Shukrayaan-1, Isro’s ambitious mission to Venus?


Isro is all set to launch Shukrayaan-1, a Venus orbiter mission, after successfully landing on the Moon and launching a spacecraft to study the Sun

The Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) confirmed earlier this month that the Aditya-L1 spacecraft had successfully escaped the sphere of Earth’s influence and is now navigating towards the Sun-Earth Lagrange Point 1 (L1) at a distance of 9.2 lakh km from Earth.

After the successful missions of Chandrayaan-3 and Aditya-L1, the Indian space agency headquartered in Bengaluru is now working on the Shukrayaan-1 Venus orbiter mission, its first mission to Venus.

What is Shukrayaan-1?

Shukrayaan will be Isro’s inaugural Venus mission, involving a spacecraft that will orbit Venus to investigate the secrets beneath the surface of the solar system’s hottest planet and explore the mysteries hidden underneath the sulfuric acid clouds that envelop it.

During his address to the Indian National Science Academy in Delhi, ISRO chief S Somanath revealed that a mission to Venus is already planned and payloads have been developed for it.

As per a report by Press Trust of India, Somanath also mentioned that Isro is working on two satellites to study space climate, its impact on Earth, and a project to land a spacecraft on Mars.

Speaking about the need to study Venus, Somanath pointed out that the planet has an atmosphere with atmospheric pressure near the surface that is 100 times that of Earth. He added that the reasons for such high atmospheric pressure are unknown and the thick clouds surrounding Venus are acidic, making it impossible to penetrate the surface.

In the same report by PTI, Somanath emphasized that studying the evolution of planetary bodies like Venus and Mars is crucial to understand the effects of our activities on Earth and determine its habitability.

There have been reports suggesting that Isro is also working on a second Mars mission. The launch of Shukrayaan is expected to take place late next year.

Who has been to Venus before?

According to Nasa, more than 40 spacecraft have been launched for Venus, with Japan’s Akatsuki currently in orbit. Nasa states that three new Venus missions will be launched in the next decade.

Nasa’s Mariner 2 was the first spacecraft to visit a planet beyond Earth when it flew past Venus on December 14, 1962. The data collected during that mission forever changed our perception of Venus as a runaway global hothouse. Understanding what went wrong with Venus’ climate could aid in protecting Earth.

Exploring the surface of Venus is challenging due to the extreme heat and atmospheric pressure. The longest any spacecraft has survived on the surface is just over two hours, a record set by the Soviet Union’s Venera 13 probe in 1981. Nasa’s DAVINCI mission is scheduled to land in 2031, focusing on atmospheric descent with a possibility of sending surface data for a few minutes. Nasa’s VERITAS and ESA’s EnVision will subsequently conduct orbital observations in the 2030s.

Also read: Why future missions to Venus will not be as straightforward as they appear

News Source Explained: What is Shukrayaan-1, Isro’s ambitious mission to Venus?

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