The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is planning to a mission to Venus in 2023, to study a planet which some scientists say has been neglected in favor of trips to the moon and Mars. The mission will bring an orbiter that will drop a balloon into the atmosphere, according to Science. The ISRO is also asking for proposals from scientists around the world on what other instruments to bring to the planet.
“Planetary exploration should be all about global partnerships,” says ISRO chair Kailasavadivoo Sivan.
The space agency says the mission will focus on studying the planet’s surface, subsurface, atmosphere, and the planet’s interaction with the Sun. The craft is expected to weigh 2500 kilograms, and will be launched by India’s heaviest rocket, called the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III.
Twelve instruments have already been chosen by ISRO, including cameras and chemical analyzers.
“Proposers are expected to be currently involved in planetary exploration studies, the development of science instruments for space, willing to develop space worthy experiments and have access to associated facilities for test and instrument calibration,” according to the ISRO.
They noted that no funds would be exchanged as part of the international collaboration process.
The exploration of Venus presents unique challenges. Unlike the moon and Mars, thick clouds, high heat and pressure, and sulfuric acid make it extremely difficult to actually reach the planet’s surface. Since the 1960s, there have been over 40 missions to Venus, including flybys, orbiter missions, and a handful of lander missions and atmospheric probes. Over half of these missions have failed.
Despite the challenges, Venus also has similarities to Earth in its size, mass, density, and gravity. The atmosphere of the planet has undergone an extreme greenhouse effect, and its thick atmosphere with a dense concentration of carbon dioxide could offer clues on the formation of Earth’s own atmosphere.
Researchers still have much to learn about the planet’s formation, spin, its interaction with solar winds and radiation, the atmosphere’s greenhouse phenomenon, and the evolution of its surface. The past focus on other exploration goals is not due to a lack of interest, according to scientists.
Lori Glaze, acting chief of NASA’s planetary science division said:
“Planetary comparative climatology is an area of continued interest and research. The opportunity to explore Venus together is welcome.”