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重返金星:寻找人类未来家园

Missions to Venus: Highlights From History, and When We May Go Back
重返金星:寻找人类未来家园

Carl Sagan once said that Venus is the planet in our solar system most like hell. So when are we going back?

卡尔·萨根(Carl Sagan)曾经说过,金星是我们太阳系中最像地狱的行星。那么,我们什么时候能重返那里呢?

Astronomers on Monday reported the detection of a chemical in the acidic Venusian clouds, phosphine, which may be a possible sign of life. That has some planetary scientists itching to return to the sun’s second planet, especially those who feel Venus has long been overlooked in favor of Mars and other destinations.

9月14日,天文学家报告称在金星的酸性云层中发现了化学物质磷化氢,这可能是生命的迹象。这让一些行星科学家十分渴望能够重返太阳的第二颗行星,尤其是那些认为比起火星和其他星球,金星长期以来都被忽视的人。
 

这是NASA“先锋计划”里金星2号探测器和四个大气探测器的艺术效果图,用于1978年的一次任务,目的是更多地了解金星大气层。

“If this planet is active and is producing phosphine, and there is something that’s making it in the Venus atmosphere, then by God almighty, forget this Mars nonsense,” said Paul Byrne, a planetary scientist at North Carolina State University. “We need a lander, an orbiter, we need a program.”

“如果这颗行星是活跃的,正在产生磷化氢,而且在金星大气层中有什么东西在制造磷化氢,那么,万能的上帝啊,忘记关于火星的废话吧,”北卡罗来纳州立大学(North Carolina State University)的行星科学家保罗·伯恩(Paul Byrne)说。“我们需要着陆器,轨道飞行器,我们需要一个项目。”

Venus is not easy to visit. Its carbon-dioxide-rich atmosphere is 90 times as dense as ours, and surface temperatures average 800 degrees Fahrenheit. Its surface pressure is intense enough to crush some submarines.

要造访金星并不容易。它的大气富含二氧化碳,密度是地球的90倍,其表面温度平均达到800华氏度(约426.7摄氏度)。它的表面压力大到足以压碎一些潜艇。

But that hasn’t stopped human space programs from trying. About 40 robotic spacecraft launched by governments on Earth have tried to visit Venus in one way or another. Here are highlights from past journeys to Venus, as well as the prospects for a speedy return to the planet to find out what’s going on in those clouds.

但这并没有阻止人类太空计划的尝试。地球上的各个政府已经发射了约40个机器人航天器,试图以各种方式登上金星。以下是历史上金星之旅的亮点,以及在未来快速前往该行星、对那些云层一探究竟的前景。

The many Soviet visitors to Venus

金星的许多苏联访客


In 1961, the Soviet space program began trying to explore Venus. In the decades that followed, it shot dozens of spacecraft toward the world sometimes known as Earth’s twin. While Soviet exploration of Venus started with many misfires, the country became the first to land a spacecraft on another world, and not long after, the first to take photos from the surface of another planet. Their engineering achievements were significant even by modern standards.

1961年,苏联的太空计划开始尝试探索金星。在接下来的几十年里,苏联向这个有时被称为地球孪生兄弟的世界发射了数十个航天器。虽然苏联在探索金星之初多次失败,但它成了首个将航天器降落到另一个星球的国家,不久之后,又成为首个在另一个行星表面拍摄照片的国家。即使以现代标准来衡量,他们的工程学成就也是重大的。

After seeing their first round of spacecraft sent into the atmosphere squashed like tin cans, the Soviets realized just how extreme the pressure on Venus was. This trial and error led to the construction of five-ton metal spacecraft built to withstand, even if for just an hour, the immense surface pressures.

看到第一批被送入大气层的航天器像易拉罐一样被压扁后,苏联人意识到金星上的压力有多大。经过这样的反复试错,他们建造了一个五吨重的金属航天器,可以承受巨大的表面压力,哪怕仅能维持1小时时间。

Venera 4 in 1967 became the first spacecraft to measure the atmosphere of another planet, detecting large amounts of carbon dioxide that cause the ceaseless Venusian greenhouse effect.

1967年,“金星4号”(Venera 4)成为首个测量另一个行星大气的航天器,它探测到了大量二氧化碳,这导致了金星无休止的温室效应。

Then in 1975, the country’s Venera 9 probe became the first to take images from the surface of another planet. The world officially met Venus. The images it and later missions sent back revealed a planet that was truly like no other: cracked terrain beneath hazy, diluted neon green light. The planet we thought might have been covered in oceans and akin to our own was instead an alien world with poison rain.

然后在1975年,苏联的“金星9号”(Venera 9)成为首个在另一个行星表面拍摄图像的探测器。我们的世界正式见识到了金星。“金星9号”及其在后来的任务中传回的图像显示了一个真正独一无二的星球:布满裂缝的地表,笼罩在朦胧、散射的霓虹绿光下。我们以为这个星球可能被海洋覆盖,与地球接近,但它实际上却是个漫天毒雨的异世界。

Later missions in the Venera series into the 1980s gave scientists a better understanding of the planet’s geological processes. Venera 11 and 12 both detected large amounts of lightning and thunder as they traveled to the surface. Venera 13 and 14 were both equipped with microphones that documented the sounds of their descent to the surface, making them the first spacecraft to record audio from another planet.

金星飞行器系列后来的任务一直延续到1980年代,让科学家们对金星的地质作用有了更好的了解。金星11号和12号在前往金星表面时都探测到了大量闪电和雷鸣。金星13号和14号都配备了麦克风,记录了它们降落到金星表面时的声音,它们也成了首批在另一个行星录制音频的航天器。

In 1985 the Soviet Union concluded its Venus encounters with the twin Vega spacecraft, which each released large balloons loaded with scientific instruments, demonstrating the potential for probes that could float in the planet’s clouds.

苏联对金星的最后探索是1985年“维加”(Vega)计划的双子探测器,它们各自释放了装有科学仪器的巨大气球,显示了探测器漂浮在金星云层中的可能性。

The slowed pace of the Soviet space program toward the end of the Cold War halted launches to Venus. While the Russian space program has discussed future exploration of Venus, its concepts have not moved off the drawing board.

到冷战末期,苏联太空计划的放缓令其暂时停止了对金星发射探测器。虽然俄罗斯的太空计划已经讨论过未来对金星的探索,但其概念仅仅停留在图纸上。

NASA kept its sights on Venus, too

NASA也把目光投向了金星


While Mars has always seemed like the apple of the eyes of American space planners, the Mariner and Pioneer programs of the 1960s and ’70s made time for Venus.

虽然火星一直被美国太空规划者视为掌上明珠,但1960和70年代的“水手(Mariner)”与“先驱(Pioneer)”计划仍留给了金星。

Mariner 2 was the first American spacecraft to make it to Venus, in 1962. It determined that temperatures were cooler higher in the clouds, but extremely hot on the surface.

1962年,“水手2号”成为首个抵达金星的美国探测器。它探测到金星高空云层的温度较低,但表面非常热。

In 1978, the Pioneer missions gave American researchers a closer look. The first of the pair orbited the planet for nearly 14 years, revealing much about the mysterious Venusian atmosphere. It also observed the surface was smoother than Earth’s, and that Venus had very little or perhaps no magnetic field. A second Pioneer mission sent a number of probes into Venus’s atmosphere, returning information on the structure of the clouds and radar readings of the surface.

1978年,先驱计划的任务让美国研究者对金星有了更深入的了解。其中第一次任务环绕金星运行近14年,揭示了很多关于神秘的金星大气层的信息。它还观察到金星表面比地球光滑,而且磁场很弱,甚至可能没有。第二次先驱计划向金星大气层发射了一些探测器,送回了关于金星云层结构和表面雷达读数的信息。

NASA’s Magellan entered into orbit in 1990 and spent four years mapping the surface and looking for evidence of plate tectonics. It discovered that nearly 85 percent of the surface was covered in old lava flows, hinting at significant past and possible present volcanic activity.

1990年,NASA的“麦哲伦号”(Magellan)探测器进入金星轨道,用四年时间绘制了金星表面图,并寻找其板块运动的证据。它发现近85%的金星表面被古老的熔岩流所覆盖,表明金星曾经有、现在也可能有火山活动。

It was also the last of the American visitors, although a number of NASA spacecraft have used Venus as a slingshot as they set course for other destinations.

它成了最后一位美国访客,尽管NASA的一些探测器在设定前往其他目的地的航线时,曾把金星当作弹弓。

Other visitors to Venus

金星的其他访客


Venus Express was launched by the European Space Agency in 2005. It orbited the planet for eight years and observed that it still may have been geologically active.

2005年,“金星特快车”(Venus Express)由欧洲航天局(European Space Agency)发射升空。它环金星运行了八年,观察到它仍可能有地质活动性。

The planet’s only guest from Earth right now is Akatsuki, which was launched by Japan in 2010. The probe missed its meeting with Venus when its engine failed to fire as it headed into orbit. By 2015, the mission’s managers had managed to steer it on a course to orbit and study the planet.

目前金星唯一的访客是日本在2010年发射的“破晓号”(Akatsuki)。该探测器在投入金星轨道的时候引擎点火失败,因此错过了与金星的相遇。2015年,任务管理人员成功将其引导到金星轨道上,并对该行星进行了研究。

It has since transformed how scientists view our clouded twin. In its study of the physics of the dense cloud layers of Venus, the mission has revealed disturbances in the planet’s winds known as gravity waves, as well as equatorial jet streams in its atmosphere.

从那以后,它就改变了科学家对地球这一云层密布的孪生兄弟的看法。在对金星密集云层的物理研究中,破晓号发现了被称为重力波的金星风干扰,以及金星大气中的赤道高速气流。

Who’s next?

谁是下一个访客?


Many missions back to Venus have been proposed, and some space agencies have declared ambitions of visiting the planet. But it’s hard to say whether any will make the trip.

许多重返金星的任务已经被提出,一些太空机构已经宣布了前往金星的抱负。但很难说是否有人会成功。

India’s space agency has proposed a mission called Shukrayaan-1, which will orbit the planet and primarily focus on the chemistry of the atmosphere.

印度航天局提出了一项名为“舒克拉雅1号”(Shukrayaan-1)的任务,它围绕金星运行,主要关注其大气层的化学成分。

Peter Beck, the founder of Rocket Lab, a private company started in New Zealand that has launched about a dozen rockets to space, has recently spoken of sending a small satellite to the planet.

彼得·贝克(Peter Beck)是火箭实验室(Rocket Lab)的创始人,这家在新西兰成立的私人企业已经向太空发射了十多枚火箭,最近,他谈到了要向金星发射一颗小型卫星的计划。

NASA has considered a number of Venus proposals in the past decade, including two in 2017 that were finalists of NASA’s Discovery program, which has previously sent explorers to the moon, Mars, Mercury and other destinations. But the agency instead selected a pair of asteroid missions.

在过去十年里,NASA考虑过很多关于金星的探测提议,包括2017年进入了NASA“发现”(Discovery)计划决赛的两项提议,该计划此前曾将探测器送往月球、火星、水星和其他目的地。但该机构最终选择执行的是两个小行星任务。

Also in 2017, for the larger, more expensive New Frontiers competition, NASA considered a Venus mission called Venus In situ Composition Investigations, or Vici, which sought to put two landers on the planet’s surface. It was passed over for Dragonfly, which will send a plutonium-powered drone to fly on Titan, the largest moon of Saturn.

同样在2017年,为了进行规模更大、成本更高的“新边疆”(New Frontiers)竞赛,NASA考虑了一项名为“金星成分就地考察”的金星任务,试图在金星表面放置两个着陆器。但它将这项任务换成了“蜻蜓号”(Dragonfly),它将向土星最大的卫星土卫六发射一架钚动力无人机。

NASA, however, did provide money for some of the technologies that Vici would need. And Venus proponents may have a new advocate inside NASA. Lori S. Glaze, the principal investigator of Vici, is now the planetary science division director at NASA.

不过,NASA确实为Vici任务需要的一些技术提供了资金。而且NASA内部或许又有了一位新的金星任务支持者。Vici任务的首席研究员洛瑞·S·格蕾斯(Lori S. Glaze),如今是NASA的行星科学部主任。

The agency will have another chance to pick a Venus mission for funding in the next round of its Discovery program.

在下一轮“发现”计划中,该机构将有另一个机会选择金星任务进行资助。

Two Venus spacecraft, named DAVINCI+ and VERITAS, are competing against proposed missions to Neptune’s moon Triton or Jupiter’s volcanic moon Io. NASA may select two of the four finalists. And there could be other possibilities for visitors to Venus.

两个分别名为“达芬奇+”(DAVINCI+)和“真相”(VERITAS)的金星探测器正在与拟议的另外两项探测计划竞争,它们分别前往海王星卫星海卫一和木星的多火山卫星木卫一。NASA可能会从四个决赛名额中挑中两个。而且,金星的访客还有其他的可能。

“We should also recognize that Venus is a planetary destination we can reach with smaller missions as well,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, the head of NASA’s science mission directorate.

“我们也应该认识到,金星是一个我们可以通过规模较小的任务就能抵达的行星目的地,”NASA的科学任务理事会主席托马斯·祖布钦(Thomas Zurbuchen)说。
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