Washington: After eight years in orbit, ESA`s Venus Express has completed routine science observations and is preparing for a daring plunge into the planet`s hostile atmosphere.
Venus Express was launched on a Soyuz-Fregat from the Russian Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on 9 November 2005, and arrived at Venus on 11 April 2006.
It has been orbiting Venus in an elliptical 24-hour loop that takes it from a distant 66,000 km over the south pole - affording incredible global views - to an altitude of around 250 km above the surface at the north pole, close to the top of the planet`s atmosphere.
With a suite of seven instruments, the spacecraft has provided a comprehensive study of the ionosphere, atmosphere and surface of Venus.
Venus has a surface temperature of over 450 degree Celsius, far hotter than a normal kitchen oven, and an extremely dense, choking mixture of noxious gases for an atmosphere. But from the mission`s infrared survey of the chemical composition of the rocky surface, researchers have learned that Venus might have once had a plate tectonics system like Earth, and even an ocean of water.