ISRO plans to explore Venus after Moon and Sun, says chairman S Somnath

Mission Vinus

New Delhi: The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is gearing up for its next interplanetary mission to Venus, the brightest and hottest planet in the solar system, after successfully landing on the Moon and launching a probe to study the Sun. ISRO chairman S Somnath announced on Tuesday that the mission to Venus, unofficially known as Shukrayaan, has already been designed and the payloads have been developed.

Somnath, who was speaking at the Indian National Science Academy in New Delhi, said that Venus is a fascinating planet that could offer insights into various aspects of space science. He said that ISRO has many missions in the conceptual stage, and Venus is one of them. “A mission to Venus has already been configured. Payloads have already been developed for it,” he said.

He explained that Venus has a thick atmosphere that is composed of mostly carbon dioxide and sulfuric acid. The atmospheric pressure on Venus is 100 times higher than that of Earth, and the surface temperature is around 460 °C (860 °F). “You cannot penetrate the surface. You don’t know if its surface is hard or not. Why are we trying to understand all of this? Earth could be one day Venus. I don’t know. Maybe 10,000 years later we (Earth) change our characteristics. Earth was never like this. It was not a habitable place long long back,” he said.

Venus is the second planet from the Sun and the closest neighbor to Earth. It is one of the four terrestrial or rocky planets and is often called Earth’s twin because it has a similar size and density. However, unlike Earth, Venus has no moon and rotates very slowly in the opposite direction.

Several space agencies have explored Venus in the past and present. The European Space Agency (ESA) had a Venus orbiter called Venus Express that operated from 2006 to 2016. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has a Venus orbiter called Akatsuki that has been orbiting since 2016. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has conducted several flyby and landing missions to Venus and recently captured the first visible light images of Venus from space using its Parker Solar Probe in 2021. NASA also plans to launch two new missions to Venus, called DAVINCI+ and VERITAS, in 2029.

Mission Vinus

ISRO launched its third lunar mission, Chandrayaan-3, in August 2023, and achieved a historic soft landing on the south pole of the Moon. ISRO also launched its first solar mission, Aditya-L1, in September 2023, to study the Sun’s corona and solar wind. ISRO has emerged as a global leader in space technology and exploration in just six decades, thanks to its low-cost and innovative missions.