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ESA's Venus Express Officially Ends its Eight-Year Mission on the Foreign Planet

First Posted: Dec 29, 2014 07:27 AM EST
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ESA's Venus Express has officially ended its eight-year mission after far exceeding its planned life. The spacecraft has officially exhausted its propellant during a series of thruster burns to raise its orbit following the low-altitude aerobraking earlier this year.

The Venus Express first arrived at Venus in 2006. Since then, the spacecraft has conducted detailed studies of the planet and its atmosphere as it remained in the planet's orbit. Yet after eight years in orbit and with propellent running low, the Venus Express conducted a daring aerobraking campaign; it dipped progressively lower into the atmosphere on its closest approaches to the planet. After a month of "surfing" in and out of the atmosphere at low altitudes.

The researchers had the assumption that there was some propellant still remaining, which is when scientists decided to correct a natural decay with a series of raising maneuvers in November in an attempt to prolong the mission. Yet full contact with Venus Express was lost on 28 November. Since then the telemetry and telecommand links have been partially re-established, but are very unstable and only limited information has been retrieved.

"The available information provides evidence of the spacecraft losing altitude control most likely due to thrust problems during the raising maneuvers," said Patrick Martin, ESA's Venus Express mission manager, in a news release. "The available information provides evidence of the spacecraft losing altitude control most likely due to thrust problems during the raising maneuvers."

It seems as if Venus Express's mission has finally come to an end. That said, the spacecraft has made many discoveries during its time, which will help with further studies on Earth.

"The mission has continued for much longer than its planned lifetime and it will now soon go out in a blaze of glory," said Martin Kessler, Head of ESA Science Operations.

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