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Rocket Lab aims to launch private Venus mission in 2023

Japan’s Akatsuki spacecraft captured this false-color image of Venus’ dayside on March 30, 2018.


There may be life in Venus’ clouds, and Rocket Lab wants to help find it.

The California-based spaceflight company, which gives small spacecraft dedicated rides to Earth orbit,

Aims to go interplanetary soon, with a robotic astrobiology mission to the second rock from the sun.

“I’m madly in love with Venus,” Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck said on Aug. 5,

During a company update and Q&A session livestreamed on YouTube.

“I’m working very hard to put together a private mission to go to Venus in 2023.”

Life in the Venusian skies?

Beck’s love springs in part from the lessons we can learn from Venus,

Which he described as “Earth in a climate-change disaster.”

But a bigger motivator is Venus’ astrobiological potential.

Venus was a temperate world in the ancient past, with rivers, lakes and oceans that may have lasted for billions of years at a time.

Then came the climate-change disaster:

A runaway greenhouse effect transformed Venus’ surface into a bone-dry hellscape with crushing atmospheric pressures,

And temperatures hot enough to melt lead.

But life on Venus, if it ever existed, may have found refuge in the sky.

Many scientists believe that potentially habitable pockets persisted in Venus’ atmosphere for long stretches, likely into the present day.

About 30 miles (50 kilometers) up, for example, temperatures and pressures today are similar to those on Earth’s surface.

It is this aerial environment that Rocket Lab plans to target with the 2023 mission.

We’re going to learn a lot on the way there,

And we’re going to have a crack at seeing if we can discover what’s in that atmospheric zone,” Beck said.

“And who knows? You may hit the jackpot.”

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