The Italian Almanac

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Venus Express

Italian News / Europe - April 13

A European space probe began orbiting Venus after a five-month voyage of 400 million kms across space. Venus Express began circling the planet at 0807 GMT, but scientists at the European Space Agency (ESA) were waiting for the probe to direct its main antenna towards Earth to ascertain whether the manoeuvre was a success.

The unmanned mission is the ESA's first to Venus, a cloud-covered, scorching-hot planet closer to the sun than Earth. The crucial commands for the orbit were radioed from the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) at Darmstadt, southern Germany.

Costing 220 million euros ($264 million), the satellite will fly in an elliptical orbit around the planet's two poles, descending as low as 250 km altitude and as high as 66,000 km. No landing is planned on the surface, where temperatures above 400 degrees Celsius prevail. Scientists, through this mission, hope to learn about how atmospheres and climates are established on planets.