Article by Mr Ankit Kumar
India has been making remarkable strides in space exploration over the past few years. The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has been at the forefront of this journey, and India’s ambitious mission to explore the planet Venus is no exception. Venus is often referred to as Earth’s twin, but it is vastly different from our planet, with a dense, toxic atmosphere and extreme temperatures that can melt lead.
The Shukrayaan 1 mission is India’s first interplanetary mission to study the planet Venus, our closest planetary neighbour. The mission was first announced in 2017, and since then, the ISRO has been working on developing the spacecraft and its instruments. The mission was expected to be launched in 2024, and it is expected to reach Venus in 2025.
Funds were released in 2017 to complete preliminary studies, and solicitations for instruments have been announced but recent updates hint towards a possible delay due to budget availability and delays in maturing of required technologies. This can possibly push the mission to 2031.
India is already cooperating with Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency also known as JAXA to study the Venus atmosphere using signals from the “Akatsuki mission” in a radio occultation experiment. The Akatsuki is a Japanese (JAXA) space probe currently orbiting Venus and studying the planet’s atmosphere.
India has been making remarkable strides in space exploration over the past few years
The primary objective of India’s mission to Venus is to study the atmosphere and surface of Venus, and to understand the processes that have shaped the planet. One of the key objectives of the Venus mission is to study the greenhouse effect on Venus. The planet has a thick atmosphere that traps heat, making its surface temperature hotter than that of Mercury, despite being farther away from the Sun. Studying the greenhouse effect on Venus will help scientists to understand how it works and how it can be applied to our understanding of Earth’s climate.
The mission will also study the surface of Venus, which is covered in volcanic features, mountains, and plains. Scientists hope to understand the geological processes that have shaped Venus and how they differ from those on Earth. Additionally, the mission will study the interaction between the atmosphere and the surface, which can give us insights into the history of Venus. The orbiter will also study the interaction between the solar wind and the Venusian atmosphere, which can help us understand how planets lose their atmospheres over time.
LAUNCH CONFIGURATION AND INSTRUMENTS
The orbiter, depending on its final configuration, would have a science payload capability of approximately 175 kilograms with around 500 W available power. The initial elliptical orbit around Venus is expected to have 500 km at periapsis and 60,000 km at apoapsis.
The mission will consist of an orbiter that will likely be launched by the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III (GSLV-Mk III) rocket. The orbiter will carry a suite of instruments to study the planet. These instruments will likely include a mass spectrometer, a cloud monitoring camera, a thermal imaging camera, and a radio occultation experiment. These instruments will help scientists to study the atmosphere, surface, and interactions between the two.
One of the unique features of the Shukrayaan 1 mission will likely be that it will carry a radar that will map the surface of Venus in detail. This is important because the surface of Venus is hidden by thick clouds that make it difficult to study with optical instruments. The radar will be able to penetrate the clouds and provide scientists with a detailed map of the planet’s topography.
Another instrument, a spectrometer will study the composition of the Venusian atmosphere. This will help scientists understand the processes that have shaped the planet’s atmosphere over time, such as volcanic eruptions and atmospheric escape.
One of the unique features of the Shukrayaan 1 mission will likely be that it will carry a radar that will map the surface of Venus in detail
The mission will carry a thermal imaging camera that will study the temperature distribution on the surface of Venus. This will provide insights into the geological processes that have shaped the planet’s surface and help scientists understand how it differs from Earth’s surface.
French astrophysicist Jacques Blamont, with his experience from the Vega program, expressed his interest to use inflated balloons to help study the Venusian atmosphere. Just like during the Vega missions, these instrumented balloons could be deployed from an orbiter and take prolonged observations while floating in the relatively mild upper atmosphere of the planet. ISRO has agreed to consider the proposal to use a balloon probe carrying 10 kilograms payload to study the Venusian atmosphere at 55 kilometres altitude.
PROFOUND EFFECTS OF THE MISSION
The mission is not just about scientific exploration; it also has practical applications. The mission will help us to develop better spacecraft and technologies for future missions to other planets. It will also inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers in India and around the world.
The Shukrayaan 1 mission is a significant step forward in India’s space exploration program and will contribute to our understanding of the universe. It is also a testament to India’s growing capabilities in space technology and the country’s commitment to exploring the cosmos. The mission is expected to provide valuable scientific data that will help us understand not only Venus but also other planets in our solar system and beyond. India’s Venus mission ‘Shukyrayaan 1’ is a significant step forward in space exploration, and it is a testament to the country’s growing capabilities in space technology. It is a reminder that space exploration is not just about discovery, but also about innovation and collaboration. As we continue to explore the cosmos, we must remember that we are all on this journey together, and that our efforts will benefit all of humanity.
The Venus mission will inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers in India and around the world