Since the beginning of space era, Venus has been an attractive target for the planetary science. Our nearest neighbour in the Solar System and, in size, the twin sister of Earth, Venus was expected to be very similar to our planet. However, the first phase of Venus spacecraft exploration (1962-1985) discovered an entirely different, exotic world hidden behind a curtain of dense clouds. The early investigation of Venus included the Venera/ Vega flotilla of Soviet orbiters, descent probes, and balloons the US Pioneer Venus and Magellan missions, recent Galileo and Cassini flybys, and a variety of ground-based observations. They established a basic description of the physical and chemical conditions prevailing in the atmosphere of Venus. At the same time they raised many questions on the physical processes sustaining these hostile and exotic conditions, most of which remain unsolved to this day.
After more than 15 years the mankind returns to the “forgotten planet”. Venus Express is the first European mission to the planet. It is based on re-use of the Mars Express spacecraft design. Most of the payload is inherited from the ESA Mars Express and Rosetta missions. The Venus Express mission will focus on the global investigation of the Venus atmosphere, plasma environment, and some surface properties from orbit. It will investigate the atmospheric structure, composition and chemistry, dynamics, radiative balance, greenhouse effect, as well as interaction between the atmosphere and the surface. It will also study the processes in the plasma environment to better understand the evolution of the atmosphere. The results of the Venus Express investigations will help to better understand our home planet.
Venus Monitoring Camera (VMC) is a wide-angle camera that will take images of the planet in four narrow band filters in the ultraviolet, visible and near-infrared wavelengths. VMC will study the cloud morphology, atmospheric dynamics, water vapour spatial distribution, and will image the surface. It will provide a global context view for the entire mission and assist in the identification of phenomena seen by the other instruments.