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Key facts about Europe's first mission to Venus

Europe's first space probe to Venus entered into the planet's orbit on Tuesday and sent its first transmissions from there to Earth. The mission aims to shed new light on Earth's closest planetary neighbour.
Venus Express
Venus Express

Here are some key facts about the mission:

* The Venus Express probe was launched on Nov. 9, 2005 and has travelled 400 million km through space. After entering Venusian gravity, it will orbit the planet and analyse its atmosphere and clouds.

* Venus Express was carried into space by the Soyuz-Fregat rocket, built by Starsem, a European-Russian launcher consortium.

* The mission hopes to solve the mystery about Venus, a planet so similar to Earth in size, mass and composition.

* At lift-off, the spacecraft had a mass of 1,270 kg, including 93 kg of payload and 570 kg of fuel. Venus Express is being controlled from the European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany.

* At its closest, the probe will be 250 km from Venus. The mission is due to last for two Venusian days, corresponding to 486 days on Earth.

* The last spacecraft on an orbital mission to Venus was NASA's Magellan probe, which orbited the planet from 1990 to 1994 and mapped 98 percent of its surface. Japan plans to launch its Venus Climate Orbiter probe in 2008.

* The Venus Express is essentially a slight variation on the ESA's "Mars Express" probe, which has been providing spectacular images of the red planet since the end of 2003.

Key facts about Europe's first mission to Venus - Tuesday, April 11, 2006 -

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