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After spending a month dropping down deep into Venus’s atmosphere, engineers are now raising Venus Express’s orbit.
Thus routine science operations concluded on 15 May, and the spacecraft’s altitude was allowed to drop naturally from the effect of gravity, culminating in a month ‘surfing’ between 131 km and 135 km above the surface. Additional small thruster burns were used to drop the spacecraft to lower altitudes, reaching 130.2 km earlier this week. Tomorrow, it is expected to dip to 129.1 km.
After eight years orbiting Venus, the mission is finally ending. They will use the spacecraft’s thrusters to lift it back up to almost 500 kilometers, where they will then allow its orbit to naturally decay, eventually ending the mission when it burns up in the atmosphere. There is also the chance they will run out of fuel during these last burns, ending the mission slightly sooner.