Russia to launch European Venus probe in 2005
MOSCOW (AFP) Jul 17, 2003
Russia will launch a European space probe towards the planet Venus in 2005, a European Space Agency (ESA) spokesman here announced Wednesday.

"The Venus Express probe will take off from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket in late October-early November 2005," spokesman Alain Fournier-Sicre told AFP.

The main purpose of the mission will be to explore the Venutian atmosphere, he said, adding that scientists hoped to discover the origin of violent winds which blow around the planet.

"Preparations for the launch are underway. We are preparing the necessary instruments," said Fournier-Sicre, adding the Russian scientists were also involved in the project.

The decision to use a Russian rocket for the launch was made "after the success of the launch of the European Mars Express," towards the red planet last month, he said.

Mars Express, launched from Baikonur on June 2, should entered Martian orbit in December. It will release the British lander Beagle-2 to collect and analyse Martian soil

Beagle-2 carries instruments that seek to confirm suspicions, drawn from pictures by orbiting American probes, about the presence of water on Mars.