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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 May 2006, 19:31 GMT 20:31 UK
Venus probe makes science orbit
Venus Express, European Space Agency

The European probe sent to Venus has put itself in the orbit from which it will make scientific observations.

Since its arrival on 11 April, the Venus Express craft has been using its main engine and thrusters to tighten its loop around Earth's neighbour.

The probe's polar flight path now takes it 250km (160 miles) above the surface at its closest approach and 66,000km (41,300 miles) at its furthest.

Venus Express will begin its science investigations in early June.

"The spacecraft instruments are now being switched on one by one for detailed checking, which we will continue until mid May. Then we will operate them all together or in groups," Don McCoy, Venus Express project manager, said in a statement from the European Space Agency.

"This allows simultaneous observations of phenomena to be tested, to be ready when Venus Express' nominal science phase begins on 4 June 2006."

The spacecraft will orbit the planet for about 500 Earth days to study its atmosphere, which is thought to have undergone runaway greenhouse warming.

Venus' dense, largely carbon dioxide, atmosphere acts as a blanket, trapping incoming solar radiation to heat the surface to an average temperature of 467C (872F) - hot enough to melt lead.

Venus probe returns first images
13 Apr 06 |  Science/Nature
Probe makes encounter with Venus
11 Apr 06 |  Science/Nature
Mission guide: Venus Express
18 Oct 05 |  Science/Nature
Doubt cast on Venus catastrophe
16 Mar 06 |  Science/Nature
Express mission to morning star
10 Nov 05 |  Science/Nature
Venus probe launched successfully
09 Nov 05 |  Science/Nature
Planet Venus: Earth's 'evil twin'
07 Nov 05 |  Science/Nature
Europe's Venus mission delayed
21 Oct 05 |  Science/Nature
Venus clouds 'might harbour life'
25 May 04 |  Science/Nature


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