The head of Russia’s space agency has said Venus is a “Russian planet”, after British researchers discovered traces of a chemical that suggests the “presence of life” on the second planet from the sun.
At the 2020 HeliRussia exhibition in Moscow, Roscosmos director general Dmitry Rogozin said Tuesday that the Soviet Union was the first country to send a probe to Venus, finding surface temperatures of around 450 degrees celsius – hot enough to melt lead.
“Our country was the first and only one to successfully land on Venus,” Rogozin said. “The spacecraft gathered information about the planet – it is like hell over there.”
“We believe that Venus is a Russian planet,” he added, according to Russia’s TASS news agency.
Venus is nowhere near as extensively studied as the moon or Mars, but scientists have long theorised that the planet’s clouds – around 30 to 40 miles above its scorched terrain – could be a potential habitat for alien life.
A team of researchers at Cardiff University, led by astrologist Jane Greaves, decided to search for traces of phosphine, a gas produced by both humans and microbial activity on Earth. They didn’t expect to find anything, so were surprised to discover “a detectable amount of Venusian phosphine”.
While the study notes that this discovery is “not robust evidence for life” on Venus, Greaves’ team have been unable to find any abiotic origin for the gas, meaning there is a chance it could be coming from a biotic – i.e. living – source.
However, the study does make clear that much more research needs to be conducted before any conclusions can be drawn.
“There are substantial conceptual problems for the idea of life in Venus’s clouds – the environment is extremely dehydrating as well as hyperacidic,” it notes. “[T]o determine whether there is life in the clouds of Venus, substantial modelling and experimentation will be important.”
Russia announced Tuesday that, as well as forging ahead with the “Venera-D Project”, a joint exploration mission with NASA, it intends to independently explore Venus.
Roscosmos said it plans to study the planet’s atmosphere and soil, along with the “evolutionary processes of Venus, which allegedly suffered a climatic catastrophe associated with the greenhouse effect”.
After the publication of the Cardiff University study on Monday, Breakthrough Initiatives – a programme funded by Russian tech billionaire Yuri Milner – announced its plan to fund a study “into the possibility of primitive life” in the Venusian clouds.
Via Vice News