Mission to Venus
Supporting the search for life off Earth
In September 2020, scientists at MIT and Cardiff University announced they had observed what may be signs of life in the clouds of our planetary neighbor, Venus. Their observations indicated the potential presence of phosphine, a gas typically produced by living organisms. In 2023, Rocket Lab is sending the first private mission to Venus to help gather further evidence by searching for organic chemicals in the clouds. The goal, using an Electron launch vehicle and Photon spacecraft, is to send a probe to around 30 miles’ altitude, where Venus’ atmospheric conditions are closer to those found on Earth.
Research suggests Venus was once a habitable planet similar to Earth. A 2019 study from NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies found that Venus could have had shallow oceans on the surface for two to three billion years and this would have supported temperatures of between 68 to 122 degrees Fahrenheit. Around 700 million years ago though, a resurfacing event released carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, turning Venus into a dangerous, inhospitable planet where atmospheric temperatures reach 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
While more than 30 Venus missions have been undertaken, Rocket Lab’s will be the first private exploration of the planet.