A few weeks ago, a team of scientists from Caltech announced that they had successfully transmitted energy from an orbiting satellite down to Earth. It wasn’t a lot of energy, but it showed that it was possible.
Eventually, we might be able to beam energy from solar satellites down to Earth, making solar energy available almost anywhere and helping combat climate change. But there’s another potential use: powering surface probes on Venus.
Venus has almost been “the forgotten planet,” with only one space mission going there in the past 30 years. But the recent resurgence of interest in Earth’s closest neighbor has NASA and ESA committing to three new missions to Venus, all due to launch by the early 2030s.
ESA’s EnVision mission Venus is slated to take high-resolution optical, spectral and radar images of the planet’s surface. But to do so, the van-sized spacecraft will need to perform a special maneuver called aerobraking to gradually slow down and lower its orbit through the planet’s hot, thick atmosphere. Aerobraking uses atmospheric drag to slow down a spacecraft and EnVision will make thousands of passages through Venus’ atmosphere for about two years.