Venus Express just received an extra birthday present. In the same week as the first anniversary of the spacecraft's launch, the editors of Popular Science magazine named Venus Express as one of the top 100 technological innovations of the year.
The award recognises both the speed with which the mission was put together and the unprecedented study it is making of Earth's nearest planetary neighbour. "To receive such recognition from a general science organisation is very rewarding," says Håkan Svedhem, the Venus Express Project Scientist. Founded in 1872, Popular Science is the world's largest science and technology magazine with a monthly circulation of 1.45 million. Each year, the editors of Popular Science review thousands of new products in search of the top 100 technological innovations of that year. The winners are announced in the December issue of the magazine.
"These awards honour innovations that not only influence the way we live today, but that change the way we think about the future," says Mark Jarrot, editor of Popular Science.
Venus Express is certainly changing the way we think of Venus. Neglected for over a decade, Venus is now firmly on the map as far as planetary astronomers are concerned, thanks to Venus Express showing it to be such a fascinating world. The mission has revealed a titanic weather system ruled by still largely unexplained forces that whip up hurricane-force winds and generate amazing double-eyed vortices over both poles.
Venus Express has also gone long way to changing how some space missions are built. Venus Express grew out of Mars Express. It reused the design of that spacecraft and some of the instruments to produce a world-class spacecraft in record time. From approval to launch, Venus Express took less than three years. "We did everything in record time and we did it without making compromises," says Svedhem.
It was this efficient attention to detail that helped draw the editors of Popular Science to the mission in the first place. The decision has come as a pleasant surprise to Don McCoy, Venus Express's Project Manager. "Knowing that we had launched the spacecraft and placed it in orbit around Venus seemed like reward enough. To now be recognised by an independent group, makes it special. I would like to thank the publishers of Popular Science for this fine award to Venus Express" he says.
The December issue of Popular Science featuring Venus Express and the other winners of the Best of What's New awards will hit newsstands on 14 December 2006.