After more than eight and a half years of being in orbit shrouded in clouds of the planet, the spacecraft of the European Space Agency Venus Express is going to retire (in fact, it is more violent to take into account: the device will dissolve in the aggressive environment of Venus).
Earlier this year, Venus Express performed a series of aerodynamic maneuvers that sent a robust spacecraft to fly through the upper atmosphere of Venus to collect intriguing data.
Working at minimum resources, as its fuel reserves have decreased, Venus Express made the last attempt to maintain its height during the last week of November. Despite this short-term success, the connection with the Venus Express was lost on 28 November.
"Available information indicates that the spacecraft has lost control, most likely during maneuvers," said Patrick Martin, mission manager for Venus Express, in a press release. "It seems, in this way, the Venus Express ran out of fuel remaining about halfway through the planned maneuvers last month." Although since that moment the re-established contact is incomplete and unstable, there is no longer any possibility to increase the height of the spacecraft.
Over the next few weeks, the Venus Express orbit will steadily decline and eventually the device will plunge into the atmosphere of the planet.
“It was an exciting experience for the work of this remarkable spacecraft in the conditions of Venus. The scientific success of the mission is a great reward for the work done and makes us more proud at this sad moment of farewell,” said Paolo Ferri, the head of the flight operations of the European Space Agency.
Although Venus Express will soon retire, mission scientists and engineers are very pleased with the achievements of the mission and the success of the ship, which has been doing its job since 2005.