Rocket Lab Delays Mission to Venus in Search of Organic Molecules

Written by Samah Labib

Saturday, 03 June 2023 03:00 AM

Rocket Lab announced last year that it would embark on an ambitious mission to send a small probe to Venus to search for organic molecules in its atmosphere.

The launch was supposed to happen in May 2023, but Rocket Lab has now confirmed that it is “not imminent,” TechCrunch reported. According to a report by engadget.

News of the mission flew under the radar as it was, but it’s somewhat ambitious. Rocket Lab plans to use the Electron Booster and Photon spacecraft, sending a small probe into Venus’s cloud layer 30 to 37 miles high, where temperatures are similar to Earth’s. (Thanks to the planet’s greenhouse effect, surface temperatures are over 900 degrees Fahrenheit and more than 75 percent of Earth’s atmosphere is compressed.)

Once there, the tiny 40cm-diameter probe will look for organic molecules or other evidence that the atmosphere could support life. Venus was in the news in 2020 after researchers claimed to have detected signs of phosphine, a chemical normally produced by living organisms. Controversial though the findings have sparked new interest in Venus’s atmosphere as a potential source of life, Rocket Lab’s mission is centered around just that.

Meanwhile, it’s a way for the company to show off its photon spacecraft designed to go beyond Earth’s orbit to the Moon and Mars. Last year, Rocket Lab successfully launched the photon on NASA’s CAPSTONE mission, designed to check the orbital stability of the planned Lunar Gateway space station.

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The lunar satellite spent nearly six months in orbit and flew within 1,000 miles of the moon’s north pole in what’s called a nearly straight halo orbit.

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