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Venus: Death of a Planet

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Billions of years ago, our nearest planetary neighbor, Venus, may have been covered with lakes and oceans, and life-giving habitats similar to those on the early Earth. Today, Venus spins slowly in a backward direction, a planet knocked upside down and turned inside out. Its burned-out surface is a global fossil of volcanic destruction, shrouded in a dense, toxic atmosphere.  

And yet, the story of Venus is central to one of the greatest quests in science today: the search for life-bearing worlds beyond the solar system. That search has turned up over 4,000 planets, with thousands more waiting to be confirmed. There could be billions of planets the size of Earth and Venus spread across the galaxy. 

Scientists have come to see Venus as the alien planet “next door,” a laboratory for testing ideas about how planets evolve and the challenges they face in nurturing life. They are now unveiling daring new strategies to reach down to its hostile surface. From floating bases stationed high in Venus’ atmosphere, they’ll send down new generation probes to search for clues from a time when the planet was alive. How did Venus descend into this hellish state? And how did its sister planet, Earth, manage to survive?

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