Venus Express, and Frogs in Space

Five years ago today — November 9, 2005 — the European Space Agency’s Venus Express mission launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome.

(Artist’s conception of lightning on Venus. European Space Agency image by J. Whatmore, from the ESA Images Multimedia Gallery.)

Venus Express launched atop a Soyuz-Fregat rocket; it arrived at its destination in April 2006. Its mission to study the Venusian atmosphere is currently scheduled to continue through 2012.

In other space history, 40 years ago today the U.S. launched the Orbiting Frog Otolith (OFO-A) spacecraft on a Scout rocket out of Wallops Island, Virginia. True to its name, the spacecraft carried two bullfrogs into orbit to study the effects of weightlessness on the otolith, i.e., the part of the inner ear that senses gravity and linear acceleration.

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