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Blaze of Glory: Europe's Venus Express Probe Set for Fiery Demise

Image: ESA probe Venus Express runs out of propellant
European Space Agency's 'Venus Express' probe during the aerobraking manoeuvre, which saw the spacecraft orbiting Venus at an altitude of around 130 km from June 18 to July 11, in an artist's rendering released on May 16.European Space Agency via EPA

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An unmanned spacecraft that has been studying the planet Venus for the past eight years is set to come to a fiery end in the coming weeks. The European Space Agency says attempts to lift Venus Express into a higher orbit to prolong the mission into next year failed because the probe was "running on fumes." Paolo Ferri, ESA's head of mission operations, said Wednesday that scientists are still receiving a weak signal from the spacecraft, but "we expect to lose the contact soon." The probe has provided scientists with plentiful data on Venus' blazing hot, dense and noxious atmosphere. It has also provided tantalizing hints of continued volcanic activity on Earth's closest neighbor. Ferry says Venus Express will likely burn up completely on descent in January.

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