Venus Express An ESA mission to Venus, launched in Nov. 2005 from Baikonur Cosmodrome by a Russian Soyuz/ST Fregat rocket. The mission is ESA's first to Earth's sister planet and was selected from a number of proposals for projects that would reuse the design first implemented for the Mars Express mission. Immediately after launch, the 1.27-tonne Venus Express spacecraft is was placed into the transfer orbit needed for its 153-day journey to Venus. Once captured by the planet's gravity, it is scheduled to explore Venus from a polar orbit for a nominal 500 days (just over two Venusian rotations). Carrying some of the instruments left over from the Mars Express and Rosetta missions, Venus Express is to focus its investigations on the dense Venusian atmosphere and to find out what drives the planet's high-speed winds.