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‘Vegan spider silk’ created by University of Cambridge provides alternative to single-use plastics

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A new vegan sustainable film could replace single-use plastics in many consumer products, scientists say.

The film, created at the University of Cambridge, is inspired by spider silk, one of the strongest materials known to nature. 

It has the strength of human-made synthetic polymers in plastic bags and film wraps, but fully decomposes naturally, without harming the environment.  

The new product will be commercialised by Xampla, a University of Cambridge spin-out company developing replacements for single-use plastic and microplastics. 

Xampla will introduce a range of single-use sachets and capsules later this year, which can replace the plastic used in everyday products like dishwasher tablets and laundry detergent capsules – many of which still come in individual plastic wrappers.

The firm is also testing the plant-based film in food packaging like sandwich containers and salad boxes. 

The film, developed by Cambridge spin-out company  Xampla, is pictured here in food packaging, dishwasher tablets and laundry detergent capsules

WHY ARE SPIDER WEBS SO STRONG? 

The strength of a biological material like spider silk lies in the configuration of structural proteins, which have small clusters of weak hydrogen bonds that work cooperatively to resist force and dissipate energy. 

This structure makes the lightweight natural material as strong as steel, even though the ‘glue’ of hydrogen bonds that hold spider silk together at the molecular level is 100 to 1,000 times weaker than the powerful glue of steel’s metallic bonds. 

Source: MIT 

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It’s also working on developing edible films, which can be used for applications such as oral delivery of drugs. 

Non-fading ‘structural’ colour can also be added to the polymer, and it can also be used to make water-resistant coatings. 

The production method can be bumped up to industrial scale, the experts claim. 

‘Other researchers have been working directly with silk materials as a plastic replacement, but they’re still an animal product,’ said study author Rodriguez Garcia at the University of Cambridge. 

‘In a way we’ve come up with “vegan spider silk” – we’ve created the same material without the spider.’ 

The material is able to be composted at home, whereas other types of bioplastics require industrial composting facilities to degrade. 

It also requires no chemical modifications to its natural building blocks, so that it can safely degrade in most natural environments.

The material was created using a new approach for assembling plant proteins into materials that mimic silk on a molecular level. 

Spiders are master builders, expertly weaving strands of silk into intricate webs that serve as the spider’s home and hunting ground. 

Xampla will introduce a range of single-use sachets this year for holding food ingredients (pictured) and cleaning products 

Spider webs are as strong as steel, even though the ‘glue’ of hydrogen bonds that hold spider silk together at the molecular level is 100 to 1,000 times weaker than the powerful glue of steel’s metallic bonds. 

The researchers became interested in why materials like spider silk are so strong when they have such weak molecular bonds.

‘We found that one of the key features that gives spider silk its strength is the hydrogen bonds are arranged regularly in space and at a very high density,’ said study author Professor Tuomas Knowles at Cambridge. 

The team began looking at how to replicate this regular self-assembly in other proteins. 

Researchers created the film by mimicking the properties of spider silk, one of the strongest materials in nature

POLYMERS AND MONOMERS

Most plastics are made of polymers, chains of hydrogen and carbon, obtained from petroleum products like crude oil.

Polymers are composed of shorter strands called monomers.

Many plastics can’t be reused due to additives mixed in with them, making them difficult to dispose of because the monomers can’t separate from them.

Any replacement for plastic requires another polymer. 

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The team replicated the structures found on spider silk by using soy protein isolate (SPI), which is readily available as a by-product of soybean oil production.

Proteins have a propensity for molecular self-organisation and self-assembly. 

‘Because all proteins are made of polypeptide chains, under the right conditions we can cause plant proteins to self-assemble just like spider silk,’ said Knowles. 

‘In a spider, the silk protein is dissolved in an aqueous solution, which then assembles into an immensely strong fibre through a spinning process which requires very little energy.’      

However, plant proteins such as SPI are poorly soluble in water, making it hard to control their self-assembly into ordered structures.

So the new technique uses an environmentally friendly mixture of acetic acid and water, combined with ultrasonication and high temperatures, to improve the solubility of the SPI. 

This method produces protein structures with enhanced ‘inter-molecular interactions’ guided by its unique and ultra-strong hydrogen bond formation. 

In a second step the solvent is removed, which results in a water-insoluble film. 

The researchers used soy protein isolate (SPI) as their test plant protein, since it is readily available as a by-product of soybean oil product

The material has a performance equivalent to high performance engineering plastics such as low-density polyethylene – one of the most widely produced plastics in the world.  

Polyethylene, also known as #1 plastic, is used in a huge variety of products from plastics bags, plastic milk jugs and shampoo bottles to corrosion-resistant piping, wood-plastic composite lumber and plastic furniture. 

The polymer is found in about a third of all plastics produced, and has a global value of about $200 billion (£142 billion) annually. 

For many years, Professor Knowles had actually been researching the behaviour of proteins for many years – but in relation to degenerative disease. 

Much of his research has been focused on what happens when proteins misfold or ‘misbehave’, and how this relates primarily to dementia.

‘We normally investigate how functional protein interactions allow us to stay healthy and how irregular interactions are implicated in Alzheimer’s disease,’ said Knowles.

‘It was a surprise to find our research could also address a big problem in sustainability – that of plastic pollution.’ 

The results are reported in the journal Nature Communications

Just 20 firms produce 55% of the world’s plastic waste – with ExxonMobil topping the list, contributing 5.9MILLION tonnes per year, report reveals 

Just 20 firms produce 55 per cent of ‘throwaway’ single-use plastic that ends up as waste worldwide, a May 2021 report revealed.

Texan oil company ExxonMobil tops the list of polymer producers generating single-use plastic waste, having contributed 5.9 million metric tonnes in 2019 – equivalent to the weight of 5,700 blue whales.

ExxonMobil was closely followed by Michigan chemicals company Dow and China oil company Sinopec, which contributed 5.6 and 5.3 million tonnes in 2019, respectively.

These three companies together account for 16 per cent of global single-use plastic waste, according to the newly-published Plastic Waste Makers index.  

At 44 kg, the UK is also the fourth largest producer of single-use plastic waste per capita globally, the report found. 

Read more: Just 20 firms produce 55% of the world’s plastic waste, report reveals 

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Spaceport Cornwall could launch Virgin Orbit probes to Mars, Venus and the moon within three years

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Spaceport Cornwall could be used to send probes to Mars, Venus and the moon within the next three or four years, Virgin Orbit’s chief executive has said.

Sir Richard Branson’s rocket company is aiming to open the Newquay-based spaceport by spring 2022, when the first satellites will be launched from British soil.

It had been hoped the horizontal launch site would be operational by October this year, but delays brought about by the coronavirus pandemic caused the date to slip.

Despite the setback, Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart told MailOnline he was optimistic the company’s LauncherOne rockets would be delivering payloads into orbit next year, with interplanetary probes likely to follow before the end of the decade.

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Future: Spaceport Cornwall could be used to send probes to Mars, Venus and the moon within three years, said Virgin Orbit’s chief executive Dan Hart (pictured centre with Boris Johnson)

Sir Richard Branson’s rocket company is aiming to open the Newquay-based spaceport (shown in an artist’s impression) by spring 2022, when the first satellites will be launched from UK soil

Mr Hart was speaking a day after Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps visited the Cornish spaceport to see Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rocket (pictured)

VIRGIN ORBIT LAUNCHERONE SPECS

Destination: Earth’s lower orbit

Speed: 20 times the speed of sound

Payload: Small satellites (660lb/300kg)

Launch method: Modified Virgin Atlantic aircraft

Flights begin: 2021

Weight: 57,000lb (25,800kg)

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‘Lunar missions and smaller craft bound for Venus and Mars could be launched [from Spaceport Cornwall] within the next three or four years,’ he said.

‘We’re not going to launch a Perseverance rover (currently being used by NASA to search for signs of ancient life on Mars), for example, but smaller interplanetary probes that explore or carry out landing missions are a possibility.’

However, despite there being talk the Cornish site could one day launch fee-paying space tourists on suborbital pleasure flights, the Virgin Orbit chief said human spaceflight was ‘not currently part of the company’s plans’ for the facility. 

Nevertheless, Mr Hart said he envisioned the spaceport having a Cape Canaveral-like effect on the Cornwall community, with people knowing when a launch is coming and being inspired that their friends and neighbours have worked on it.

He was speaking a day after Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps visited the Cornwall spaceport to see Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rocket, ahead of a G7 summit of world leaders beginning on Friday.

‘It was terrific to talk about the transformations going on in space and the opportunities for growth in the UK,’ Mr Hart said. 

‘The PM was very eager to see our technology – he studied all the data and graphs we showed him and was keen to hear about the partnership between the US and UK, as well as how satellites can enhance national security.’

When asked whether Mr Johnson had mentioned going into space himself, Mr Hart said: ‘He did not, but I’m pretty sure Grant Shapps would be very interested being the aviator that he is.’

When asked whether Mr Johnson had mentioned going into space himself, Mr Hart said: ‘He did not, but I’m pretty sure Grant Shapps would be very interested being the aviator that he is’

Ready for launch: LauncherOne is a two-stage, air-to-orbit rocket that can carry small satellite payloads weighing up to about 660 pounds (300 kilograms) into low-Earth orbit

The rockets are carried up into the atmosphere on a carrier aircraft, dubbed ‘Cosmic Girl’, a Boeing 747-400 (pictured) converted from its former role as a Virgin passenger airliner

Mr Shapps is a keen pilot who often flies around the country on ministerial business.

Virgin Orbit will use Spaceport Cornwall to launch small satellites into space on LauncherOne, a two-stage, air-to-orbit rocket that can carry payloads weighing up to about 660 pounds (300 kilograms) into low-Earth orbit.

The rockets are carried up into the atmosphere on a carrier aircraft, dubbed ‘Cosmic Girl’, a Boeing 747-400 converted from its former role as a passenger airliner in the Virgin Atlantic fleet. 

Spaceport Cornwall’s development is expected to create around 150 jobs and allow the UK to compete in the global market for deploying small satellites into Earth orbit — an industry expected to be worth £3.9 billion by 2030 which Branson is hoping to tap into.  

In January, Virgin Orbit succeeded in putting its first satellites into space, after launching ten payloads from under the wing of a 747 which launched from California’s Mojave desert.

Success: Virgin Orbit put its first satellites into space in January after launching in California

The company announced on Tuesday that the next launch is planned for the end of June and will be live streamed for the first time.

Mr Hart would not be drawn on recent speculation that Branson might try to beat Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos into space by launching on his VSS Unity SpaceShipTwo rocket plane next month. 

Unity is operated by Virgin Galactic — a separate company to Orbit — but despite saying he was in the dark about the billionaire mogul’s plans, Mr Hart did acknowledge that Branson was ‘anxious to go there’.  

A report on Wednesday claimed the Virgin founder planned to make a suborbital flight two weeks before Bezos, who announced on Monday that he and his brother would fly to the edge of space on Blue Origin’s New Shepard spacecraft on July 20.

THE BILLIONAIRE SPACE RACE: HOW BRANSON, MUSK AND BEZOS ARE VYING FOR GALACTIC SUPREMACY

Jeff Bezos in front of Blue Origin’s space capsule

Dubbed the ‘NewSpace’ set, Jeff Bezos, Sir Richard Branson and Elon Musk all say they were inspired by the first moon landing in 1969, when the US beat the Soviet Union in the space race, and there is no doubt how much it would mean to each of them to win the ‘new space race’.

Amazon founder Bezos looks set to be the first of the three to fly to space, having announced plans to launch aboard his space company Blue Origin’s New Shepard spacecraft on July 20. 

The billionaire mogul will travel with his younger brother Mark, a former advertising executive and volunteer firefighter, and the winner of a multi-million pound auction.

However, a report has suggested Branson might beat him to it, by making a suborbital flight two weeks before Bezos and his brother. The suggestion is the Virgin Galactic founder would travel on his VSS Unity SpaceShipTwo rocket plane on the July 4 weekend.

Although SpaceX and Tesla founder Musk has said he wants to go into space, and even ‘die on Mars’, he has not said when he might blast into orbit. 

SpaceX appears to be leading the way in the broader billionaire space race with numerous launches carrying NASA equipment to the ISS and partnerships to send tourists to space by 2021.  

On February 6 2018, SpaceX sent rocket towards the orbit of Mars, 140 million miles away, with Musk’s own red Tesla roadster attached. 

Elon Musk with his Dragon Crew capsule

NASA has already selected two astronauts who will be on-board the first manned Dragon mission. 

SpaceX has also started sending batches of 60 satellites into space to help form its Starlink network. 

Musk hopes this will provide an interconnected web of satellites around Earth which will beam down free internet to people worldwide.  

Branson and Virgin Galactic are taking a different approach to conquering space. It has repeatedly, and successfully, conducted test flights of the Virgin Galactic’s Unity space plane. 

The first took place in December 2018 and the latest on May 22, with the flight accelerating to more than 2,000 miles per hour (Mach 2.7). 

More than 600 affluent customers to date, including celebrities Brad Pitt and Katy Perry, have reserved a $250,000 (£200,000) seat on one of Virgin’s space trips. 

Branson has previously said he expects Elon Musk to win the race to Mars with his private rocket firm SpaceX. 

Richard Branson with the Virgin Galactic craft

SpaceShipTwo can carry six passengers and two pilots. Each passenger gets the same seating position with two large windows – one to the side and one overhead.

The space ship is 60ft long with a 90inch diameter cabin allowing maximum room for the astronauts to float in zero gravity.

It climbs to 50,000ft before the rocket engine ignites. SpaceShipTwo separates from its carrier craft, White Knight II, once it has passed the 50-mile mark.

Passengers become ‘astronauts’ when they reach the Karman line, the boundary of Earth’s atmosphere.

The spaceship will then make a suborbital journey with approximately six minutes of weightlessness, with the entire flight lasting approximately 1.5 hours.

Bezos revealed in April 2017 that he finances Blue Origin with around $1 billion (£720 million) of Amazon stock each year.

The system consists of a pressurised crew capsule atop a reusable ‘New Shepard’ booster rocket.   

Bezos is one of the richest men in the world and Blue Origin has successfully flown the New Shepard rocket 15 times.

At its peak, the capsule reached 65 miles (104 kilometres), just above the official threshold for space and landed vertically seven minutes after liftoff.  

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Scientists develop earmuffs can measure blood alcohol levels through the skin

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Suspected drink drivers could soon be told to put on a pair of earmuffs by police, if a new device comes to fruition.  

Japanese scientists have developed a pair of earmuffs that can estimate blood alcohol levels based on ‘transcutaneous gas’ – gas released through the skin.

The earmuffs, presented as a proof-of-concept in a new study, detect ethanol compounds in transcutaneous gas released by the ears.   

In trials, the device measured alcohol intake as well as a traditional breathalyser, although the process took a lot longer – more than two hours, compared with what can be just a few minutes for breathalysers when stopped on the roadside. 

A schematic image of the monitoring system for external ear-derived ethanol that consists of earmuffs and an ethanol vapor sensor (bio-sniffer)

But a breathalyser test tends to be much more invasive, often requiring a tube to be inserted into the mouth.

Also, products such as mouthwash or breath spray can ‘fool’ some breathalysers by significantly raising test results. Listerine mouthwash, for example, contains 27 per cent alcohol. 

It also measures other chemical compounds – acetone (a marker of lipid metabolism) and acetaldehyde (a known carcinogen detection in the body after drinking). 

The device has been developed by a Japanese team led by Kohji Mitsubayashi at Tokyo Medical and Dental University.  

‘We have investigated the possibility of external ears for stable and real-time measurement of ethanol vapour,’ they say in their study. 

‘For stable monitoring of transcutaneous gas, finding a body part with little interference on the measurement is essential.

‘Transcutaneous gas is more suitable to real-time and continuous assessment than breath.’  

Chemical compounds that are released through the skin reflect the chemical compounds present in blood circulating in the body – including those from alcohol (ethanol). 

Admittedly, measurements of breath and ‘transcutaneous gas’ are not as accurate a measure of blood alcohol levels as blood and urine samples (although these are far more invasive).  

ALCOHOL AND BREATHALYSERS  

Alcohol, also known as ethanol, is the main ingredient of alcoholic drinks such as beer, wine, and liquor. 

When you have an alcoholic drink, it is absorbed into your bloodstream and processed by the liver. 

As the alcohol in the blood travels to the lungs, some of it will evaporate into the air in the tiny lung sacs known as alveoli, and be exhaled from the body (‘alcohol breath’).  

It is this alcohol that a breathalyser is designed to measure. This is why it is necessary to measure deep lung air when using a breathalyser.

While a breathalyser gives fast results, it is not as accurate as measuring alcohol in the blood.  

So no breath test is as accurate as a blood or urine test.  

Source: NHSGGC/MedlinePlus/Breathalyzer.co.uk  

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The team’s device consists of a modified pair of commercial earmuffs that collect gas released through the skin of a person’s ears, and an ethanol vapour sensor. 

If the sensor detects ethanol vapour in the gas, it releases light of different intensities, depending on the ethanol concentrations detected.

In experiments, the authors used their device to continuously monitor ethanol vapour released through the ears of three male volunteers.

Firstly, base ethanol concentrations from the transcutaneous ear gas was measured for 10 minutes without drinking alcohol. 

Then the volunteers drank alcohol at the concentration of 0.4 g per kg body weight within five minutes, and the measurement continued for another 140 minutes.  

The ethanol concentrations of the volunteers’ breath were also measured at regular intervals using an additional ethanol vapour sensor and a device containing reagents that change colour when exposed to ethanol.

The authors observed that changes in the concentration of ethanol released through the ears and breath were similar over time for all volunteers.

As previous research found that ethanol concentrations in the breath and blood are correlated, this indicates that the device could be used instead of a breathalyser to estimate blood alcohol levels.  

Results from the earmuffs were comparable to a breathalyser – but a breathalyser test is much more invasive, requiring a tube to be inserted into the mouth. Pictured, an Australian officer using breathalyser on driver Products such as mouthwash or breath spray can ‘fool’ some breathalysers by significantly raising test results. Listerine mouthwash, for example, contains 27 per cent alcohol.

The average highest concentration of ethanol released through the ears was found to be 148 parts per billion.

Previous devices have used the hand to measure blood alcohol levels as a less invasive alternative to putting a tube into someone’s mouth. 

But 148 parts per billion is double the concentration previously reported to be released through the skin of the hand, the researchers say, suggesting the ears may be more suitable.  

Also, sweat coming from sweat glands in the hand can interfere with readings, the researchers point out. In comparison, an external ear canal has no eccrine sweat gland.

‘Each body part has different density of sweat glands and epidermis layers of the skin,’ they say. ‘Therefore, it is important to choose a proper body region.’ 

The authors also propose that the device could be used to measure other gases released through the skin, for example in disease screening.   

The study has been published in Scientific Reports.  

DO YOU DRINK TOO MUCH ALCOHOL? THE 10 QUESTIONS THAT REVEAL YOUR RISK

One screening tool used widely by medical professionals is the AUDIT (Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Tests). Developed in collaboration with the World Health Organisation, the 10-question test is considered to be the gold standard in helping to determine if someone has alcohol abuse problems.

The test has been reproduced here with permission from the WHO.

To complete it, answer each question and note down the corresponding score.

YOUR SCORE:

0-7: You are within the sensible drinking range and have a low risk of alcohol-related problems.

Over 8: Indicate harmful or hazardous drinking.

8-15: Medium level of risk. Drinking at your current level puts you at risk of developing problems with your health and life in general, such as work and relationships. Consider cutting down (see below for tips).

16-19: Higher risk of complications from alcohol. Cutting back on your own may be difficult at this level, as you may be dependent, so you may need professional help from your GP and/or a counsellor.

20 and over: Possible dependence. Your drinking is already causing you problems, and you could very well be dependent. You should definitely consider stopping gradually or at least reduce your drinking. You should seek professional help to ascertain the level of your dependence and the safest way to withdraw from alcohol.

Severe dependence may need medically assisted withdrawal, or detox, in a hospital or a specialist clinic. This is due to the likelihood of severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms in the first 48 hours needing specialist treatment.

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European Space Agency is sending a mission to study Venus after NASA announced two last week

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Just days after NASA announced it was sending two missions to study Venus, the European Space Agency has joined the party.

On Thursday, the ESA said it will send a probe, known as EnVision, to study ‘Earth’s evil twin,’ targeting a launch in the early 2030s.

NASA’s missions to the second planet in the Solar System, DAVINCI+ and VERITAS, will launch within the next 10 years.

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‘A new era in the exploration of our closest, yet wildly different, Solar System neighbor awaits us,’ said Günther Hasinger, ESA Director of Science, in a statement

‘Together with the newly announced NASA-led Venus missions, we will have an extremely comprehensive science program at this enigmatic planet well into the next decade.’   

In 2019, researchers said Venus may have had stable temperatures in its past and could have had ‘liquid water’ for 2 to 3 billion years, similar to Earth.

Approximately 700 million years ago, it underwent a ‘dramatic transformation’ -possibly due to volcanic eruptions – that completely altered the planet and resulted in what is now considered a hellish atmosphere. 

Venus presently has a surface temperature of 864 degrees Fahrenheit and in some parts of the planet, the ground glows red.

It also rotates backwards, with the sun rising in the west and setting in the east. 

The European Space Agency said it will send a probe, known as Envision, to study Venus, joining NASA’s announcement from earlier this month

The mission, targeting a launch in the early 2030s, will help explain why Venus turned into a boiling hot planet, sometimes referred to as ‘Earth’s evil twin’ 

Both space agencies will work together on their respective missions, notably sharing instruments. 

‘All three of the missions are highly complementary,’ Dr. Philippa Mason, an Envision science team-member from Imperial College London, UK, told BBC News

‘EnVision’s VenSAR will provide a unique perspective with its targeted studies of the Venus surface, enriching the roadmap of Venus exploration,’ Adriana Ocampo, EnVision Program Scientist at NASA HQ, said in a separate statement released by NASA.  

EnVision is expected to be focused on Venus’s nature, looking at the planet’s ‘tesserae,’ the planet’s equivalent of Earth’s continents.

It will also study the planet’s underground layers and monitor for trace gases in the atmosphere, looking for signs of active volcanic activity.  

‘ESA’s EnVision mission will provide unparalleled high-resolution imaging and polarimetry capabilities,’ said Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division. 

EnVision (pictured), could launch as early as 2031, but may also go into orbit in 2032 or 2033, the ESA said

EnVision will take around 15 months to reach Venus and then spend 16 months orbiting the planet

EnVision can orbit Venus in 92 minutes at an altitude between 220 km and 540 km 

‘High-resolution images of many dynamic processes at Mars profoundly changed the way we thought about the Red Planet and images at similar scales have the potential to do the same for Venus.’   

From here, the ESA will move to the ‘Definition Phase’ of the project, with the orbiter’s design and instruments being finalized.

After that, a contractor will be selected to build and test EnVision, with BBC reporting that Airbus UK ‘is in a strong position’ to assemble the final probe.

The earliest it can launch is 2031, with 2032 and 2033 also possibilities for the 15-month journey.

EnVision will help researchers learn why Venus is so different from Earth, if it’s still volcanically active and if it can teach us about planets outside the Solar System

After arriving at Venus, it will spend 16 months orbiting the planet, entering a ‘quasi-polar’ orbit with an altitude of between 220 km and 540 km traveling around the planet in 92 minutes, the ESA added.

The first of NASA’s two missions, DAVINCI+ (Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry, and Imaging) will measure Venus’ atmosphere to understand how it formed and evolved and determine whether it ever had an ocean.

It will also look for noble gases — such as helium, neon, argon and krypton — in its atmosphere and find out why it is a ‘runaway hothouse,’ when compared to Earth.     

The other mission, VERITAS (Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography, and Spectroscopy) will map the surface of Venus and look at its geologic history in an effort to find out why it developed so much differently than Earth.

It will use a synthetic aperture radar and ‘chart surface elevations over nearly the entire planet to create 3D reconstructions of topography’ to see whether plate tectonics and volcanic activity are still happening on the planet, NASA added.   

In 2020, scientists caused a stir when they said that trace amounts of phosphine gas, a colorless gas that is naturally produced mainly by certain microorganisms in the absence of oxygen, were discovered.

Those hopes may have been dashed however, when a separate study said that it wasn’t phosphine that was detected, but ‘ordinary’ sulfur dioxide.    

CARBON DIOXIDE AND SULPHURIC ACID DROPLETS FEATURE IN THE ATMOSPHERE OF VENUS

Venus’s atmosphere consists mainly of carbon dioxide, with clouds of sulphuric acid droplets. 

The thick atmosphere traps the sun’s heat, resulting in surface temperatures higher than 470°C (880°F).

The atmosphere has many layers with different temperatures. 

At the level where the clouds are, about 30 miles (50 km) up from the surface, it’s about the same temperature as on the surface of the Earth.

As Venus moves forward in its solar orbit while slowly rotating backwards on its axis, the top level of clouds zips around the planet every four Earth days.

They are driven by hurricane-force winds travelling at about 224 miles (360 km) per hour. 

Atmospheric lightning bursts light up these quick-moving clouds. 

Speeds within the clouds decrease with cloud height, and at the surface are estimated to be just a few miles (km) per hour.

On the ground, it would look like a very hazy, overcast day on Earth and the atmosphere is so heavy it would feel like you were one mile (1.6km) deep underwater.

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