On Monday, scientists announced the astonishing discovery of phosphine in the atmosphere of Venus. This chemical could have been produced by a biological source, but scientists won’t know for sure without sending a spacecraft to the planet.
As luck would have it, Rocket Lab, the private small rocket company founded in New Zealand, has been working on such a mission. The company has developed a small satellite, called Photon, that it plans to launch on its own Electron rocket as soon as 2023.
“This mission is to go and see if we can find life,” said Peter Beck, Rocket Lab’s founder and chief executive. “Obviously, this discovery of phosphine really adds strength to that possibility. So I think we need to go and have a look there.”
Rocket Lab has launched a dozen rockets to space, putting small satellites into orbit for private companies, NASA and the U.S. military. It also has a mission to the moon in the works with NASA, called CAPSTONE, scheduled to launch in early 2021.
…The company’s plan is to develop the mission in-house and mostly self-fund it, at a cost in the tens of millions of dollars.
Here is the full NYT story by Jonathan O’Callaghan, interesting throughout.