Venus Express on its way to Galaxy

A probe has blasted off on a European mission to Venus - the first visit to the planet in 15 years.

The Venus Express left Earth shortly after 3.30am this morning from Kazakhstan on its five-month journey.

It will travel 26 million miles before reaching Venus, known as the Morning Star, to scan its atmosphere and weather.

Scientists say they hope to find clues that will help in their understanding of climate change on Earth.

Venus, which is the closest planet to Earth and similar in size and mass, is thought to be an example of how our planet could look in years to come if global warming continues.

Its atmosphere is thick, mainly composed of carbon dioxide, and acts like a greenhouse, trapping solar heat and pushing surface temperatures over 460C - hot enough to melt lead.

Acid rain falls from sulphurous clouds on to a baked landscape of barren plains, rolling uplands and mountains, dotted with impact craters and scientists believe local volcanic activity probably goes on all the time.

The last dedicated mission to Venus was Magellan, launched by the American space agency NASA in 1990, which mapped the surface using radar, Sky News reports.


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