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Future bleak for Venus missions

Mysore, July 20, 2012, DHNS: 22:33 IST
While space agencies across the world continue to focus on Mars, explorations to Venus have been hit hard owing to a financial crunch.

Surprisingly, American and Russian scientists at NASA and Roscosmos (the Russian Federal Space Agency) remain enthusiastic over the mission. Venus, which was believed to be habitable at one time, may still hold answers on why water dried up on the planet centuries ago.

According to Sanjay Limaye of the Venus Exploration Analysis Group, a planned expedition to Venus by NASA, called the Discovery Programme, has an estimated price tag of $ 500 million — which does not cover the launch vehicle. Additonal funding is unlikely because of cutbacks. The proposed Russian spaceprobe ‘Venera-D’, if launched, will investigate the surface of Venus. But Russian scientist L V Zasova said Roscosmos has not taken a final decision on its launch.

Meantime, the European Space Agency is expected to reach a decision on an expedition in 2015. Limaye said an International Venus Exploration Working Group is being organised to better coordinate international efforts by scientists. But the next possible mission may not reach Venus until 2020 — at the earliest.

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