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ESA approves EnVision and LISA missions to study Venus and gravitational waves

On January 25, 2024, the European Space Agency officially approved the EnVision and LISA space missions. After approval by the ESA Scientific Program Committee, these two missions have moved into the first operational phase, during which specific instruments and commercial partners will be selected, and this phase should be completed in early 2025. The EnVision mission was selected for the first phase of preliminary research in 2021 and will be launched in 2031 aboard the ESA Ariane 6 launch vehicle. The goal of this probe is to reach Venus in about 15 months and explore the planet closest to Earth.
Understanding how and when the planet turned into the hottest rocky body in the Solar System will help to understand the possible evolution of the Earth. After all, Venus is a rocky planet, most similar to ours in size and composition. EnVision also seeks to understand whether there was an ocean on Venus, how its atmosphere changed, and whether life was possible (or even possible) on Venus — this will be one of the most important space missions of the next decade. The following video is an overview of the EnVision mission:

The EnVision mission is a collaboration between ESA and NASA, which will also involve several European space agencies and organizations, including ASI. The LISA mission has been in the planning stage for several years now. They started talking about it back in the early 2000s, when the design of LISA Pathfinder began. It was a test satellite launched in 2015 that successfully demonstrated the feasibility of LISA. The launch of this mission is scheduled for 2035, again using an Ariane 6 rocket.

This mission will consist of three different satellites located at a distance of more than 1.5 million km from each other and spaced 120 degrees apart, forming a hypothetical triangle. The three satellites will be connected by a laser, which will create a real laser interferometer in space to search for gravitational waves. Thus, the LISA mission will become a fundamental tool for studying gravitational waves, capable of "observing" the merging of objects in space, such as neutron stars, black holes and stars. This will allow us to understand these destructive phenomena of the Universe in combination with other instruments, in particular, with Euclidean, which is impossible with the help of other instruments.

The LISA mission will be carried out by an international collaboration led by ESA, which will be responsible for the construction of the probe, launch and data management. Among the most important elements of the probe are three central gold elements, which will reflect laser beams and measure changes in their wavelengths caused by the passage of gravitational waves. These items will be shipped from Italy and Switzerland. Precision picometers for detecting interferometric signals are supplied by Germany, Great Britain, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Poland and the Czech Republic. The scientific diagnostic subsystem (a set of sensors) is supplied by Spain. Superstable lasers, 30-centimeter telescopes to collect their light and sources of ultraviolet radiation (for the discharge of test masses) will be provided by NASA.

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