Rocket Lab will Launch Venus Mission Ahead of NASA to Investigate Potential Signs of Life

2nd Oct 2020
Rocket Lab's Venus Mission

New Zealand aerospace firm, Rocket Lab, intends to launch a rocket to investigate further the possibility of life on Venus ahead of NASA. Peter Beck, CEO and founder of Rocket Lab, made public his intentions for the mission over a radio discussion with Francesca Rudkin on iHeartRadio.

https://www.iheart.com/podcast/28944197/episode/71963363/

The Mission

Peter Beck explained in his interview that the idea for a Venus mission was formulated last week. It came about after an international team of scientists made an astounding discovery – that the atmosphere in Venus contains the compound, phosphine.

In past years, major space agencies such as NASA have shown more curiosity in distant solar bodies when searching for forms of life. Rocket Lab’s current venture hopes to revolutionise this outlook.

The scientific evidence presented by the group of astronomers claims that radio telescopes monitored from Earth discovered the presence of phosphine in the upper clouds of Venus. The gas presence is a mystery that presents a challenge to be solved, as phosphine is a toxic by-product of microbial life and certain industrial activities.

While NASA focuses on the prospect of life that may have existed on Mars, Rocket Lab is now looking at Venus for potential life signs. Peter Beck speculates that if all goes as scheduled, they will launch a low budget Venus mission by 2023.

What the Mission Entails

Peter Beck announced that Rocket Lab would be working with world-class scientists to manufacture the probe they’ll be sending to the planet. The team already features a Canadian-American astronomer and planetary expert from MIT, Sara Seager.

Rocket Lab plans to modify a previous satellite into the Venus probe. According to Beck, the Photon will be upgraded to withstand the interplanetary journey, a cheaper idea than manufacturing a new satellite for the mission. The proposed spacecraft will take roughly 160 days to complete the voyage from Earth. Once the spacecraft arrives, it will then free fall at about 11 kilometres per second from the planet’s clouds as it takes readings.

As NASA begins to shift its interest to Venus, two challenges face Rocket Lab’s design—the Venus Mission probe’s size and knowing what molecules to look for in the dense atmosphere.

However, with help from a team of top scientists, the company can succeed in carrying out a successful mission. The idea for an investigation into life on Venus will no doubt be paramount in all future space exploration missions and may revolutionise the space industry as a whole.

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