The selection by ESA of the Venus Express has been a very good new for planetary scientists at the end of 2002. Despite very important planetary scientific questions left unanswered after the planetary exploration up to Magellan, like the superrotation of Venus or the stability of the atmospheric minor compounds in interaction with the surface, no space science mission was selected in the last decenny to fill the gap. Our understanding of the evolution of telluric planets therefore remains unachieved in many aspects, with the Martian science only in progress during the last few years.
On Venus Express, VIRTIS is a key instrument, with a wavelength range between 0.25 and 5 micron, covering both the UV absorbers and infrared windows, and with imaging capabilities for local variations studies of composition and cloud structure. The contribution of VIRTIS to Venus science is therefore hoped to help understanding the complex dynamical and composition coupling in the lower atmosphere, the upper atmospheric structure and dynamics, as well as many other objectives, notwithstanding new and unexpected discoveries.
This VIRTIS/VEX science meeting will be the first occasion for the team to meet and discuss about the science opportunities that the Venus Express mission gives for near infrared and visible spectro-imaging. After the selection of new co-investigators by ESA, the science objectives covered by experts in atmospheric science have been reinforced. Moreover, the technical definition of the mission now gives a better knowledge of VIRTIS capabilities in the context of Venus orbit. The meeting will therefore include two parts in the discussion:
1) A review of the VIRTIS instrument, inherited from the Rosetta mission with minor adaptations, and a discussion of the last science issues, after a Venus Express science team meeting (March 27-28).
2) A discussion of science objectives, and their inclusion in the observing strategy currently under discussion with ESA and Astrium.
A large part is left for discussions. In particular, the second day will allow to team members to present their own view on the science objectives. The organization of future work, through the definition of working groups specialized in important science or technical aspects of the mission. Another important issue is the coordination of observations with other Venus Express instruments, in particular PFS, whose wavelength range recover partly the infrared range of VIRTIS.
The agenda will be kept somewhat flexible, to give some space to discussion. We encourage the co-Is to contact Pierre Drossart if they intend to present some material at the meeting (during the session of Friday, April 4). For your local arrangements, you can consult a list of hotels; the directions from Paris to Meudon Observatory are explained on the Web site or Paris Observatory
Pierre Drossart and Giuseppe Piccioni