This is what Peter Beck, CEO of Rocket Lab, hopes for, because he has set his sights on a low-cost detector to be launched in 2023.
In the past ten years, his company is very good at putting satellites into orbit, and his next dream, an interplanetary mission, has recently received an adrenaline feat, surprisingly found to be related to living organisms gas. The corrosive sulfuric acid atmosphere of Venus.
Baker explained: “What we are looking for on Mars are signs of past lives.”
“The Venus indicates that there is potential life now.”
Since the 1980s, the hellish scene of Venus has been largely ignored by major space agencies, and is biased towards more distant objects in the solar system.
Dozens of missions have been sent specifically to Mars to look for signs of ancient microorganisms.
However, it was reported on September 14 that the Earth-based radio telescope had discovered a gas called phosphine in the atmosphere of Venus, which inspired a new wave of enthusiasm among scientists. For many years, scientists have defended the hypothesis that tiny organisms can live in planetary clouds.
Phosphine is not an authoritative proof of life. But its existence may be connected with living things on our planet.
This discovery led NASA to announce that it was time to prioritize Venus.
He said Baker has been working in the camp supporting Venus and has been considering sending a completely privately funded investigation for two years.
With the help of a doctoral student, he calculated that the small satellite called “Photon” developed in the Rocket Lab can be converted into a spacecraft for interplanetary navigation.
Considering the huge costs involved, such bidding has traditionally been the scope of the National Space Administration’s work, but Baker believes that he has developed a budget solution.
“I hope the mission to Venus can reach 30 million US dollars,” he told AFP in a video in Auckland, New Zealand.
He said: “When you can measure interplanetary missions with tens of millions of dollars instead of billions of dollars, and months instead of decades, the chances of discovery will be incredible,” he said.
Rocket Lab’s expertise is to use small 18-meter-high rockets to send small satellites into earth orbit. In recent years, this is a lucrative market due to the surge in demand for microsatellites.
The company’s Venus probe will be very small, weighing about 80 pounds (37 kilograms), and only one foot (30 cm) in diameter.
It takes 160 days to set off from the earth, and then the photon will launch the detector into the clouds of Venus. Without a parachute, it will take the reading at the time of the fall at a speed of nearly 25,000 mph (11 kilometers per second).
The probe will analyze the atmosphere in 270 to 300 seconds, with a density nearly 100 times higher than that of the Earth, before it can decompose or hit the fiery surface of the planet, where the temperature is sufficient to melt lead (900 degrees Fahrenheit or 480 degrees Fahrenheit) Celsius).
The most difficult part is deciding on the scientific instrument: what molecule should it look for?
Miniaturization is another issue. The probe will need to weigh seven pounds (three kilograms). Some experts suspect this is possible, but Baker disagrees.
The Rocket Lab will need the help of leading scientists and has recruited Sara Seag, an astronomer and planetary scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Expedition is the latest chapter in the new era of space exploration. It is not driven by the government but by personal curiosity and ambition. So far, this is best done by SpaceX decipher Elon Musk. Symbolic.
SpaceX has revolutionized this field with its reusable rocket, which has now sent astronauts to the International Space Station with an eye on colonizing Mars.
NASA is no longer afraid of subcontracting missions to private individuals, and the Rocket Lab will receive a remuneration of $10 million to put microsatellites into lunar orbit in 2021.
As for Venus, Baker wants to provide services for NASA.
The space agency is considering returning to Venus, but will have to wait until 2026 at the earliest. Its last Venus orbiter was Magellan, which arrived in 1990, but other ships have since flown over.
The young CEO said: “We hope to perform many tasks every year.”