European Venus probe launched successfully

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Wednesday, November 9, 2005 European Space Agency's probe to Venus was successfully launched on Wednesday, November 9, at 0333 GMT from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The probe, entitled Venus Express, separated from its Soyuz Fregat carrier 90 minutes after the launch, after which it emitted a signal marking the start of its journey to Earth's closest planetary neighbour.

Venus Express is to arrive at Venus in April 2006. The probe will spend at least 15 months—two Venusian days—studying the planet. The orbiter, however, has enough fuel to operate for 1000 Earth days.

The 220 million € (260 million US$) probe is set to examine the turbulent atmosphere and intense greenhouse effect of Venus. The probe will study the planet's temperature variation, cloud formations, wind speeds and gas composition. It is hoped that the results will help scientists understand Earth's global warming better. Venus express is a clone of Mars Express which has been orbiting Mars since December 2003.