Collin Arocho
16 June 2021

The European Space Agency (ESA) has announced the Venus orbiter Envision will be the fifth medium-class mission of its Cosmic Vision program. The satellite will be used to investigate why and when Earth and Venus became such different planets – one with oceans and a mild climate, the other barren with temperatures near 500 degrees. The Envision orbiter, which was developed by a team of European collaborators including SRON and Delft University of Technology, is set to circle Earth’s sister planet by the early 2030s.

Envision orbiter
Credit: NASA/JAXA/ISAS/DARTS/Damia Bouic/VR2Planets

Working in tandem with ESA’s US counterpart NASA, the Envision orbiter will use spectrometers to study gases, nebulae and clouds in the atmosphere. A radar will map the surface and subsurface, where researchers keep a close eye on volcanoes because any changes could indicate recent eruptions. For this investigation, SRON and TU Delft are teaming up to deploy their expertise in the field of spectrometer detectors and the Venusian atmosphere.

“Although Venus is the closest planet to us, it remains a mysterious world to researchers because of its thick atmosphere and unbroken cloud cover,” says Daphne Stam, associate professor of planetary sciences at TU Delft. “With Envision, we can perform detailed studies of the connections between the gases in the atmosphere, the sulfuric acid clouds and the volcano-rich, glowing surface. It gives us more insight into the evolution of Earth-like planets.”