The European Space Agency’s Venus Express mission has begun with a flawless launch at Baikonur in Kazakhstan. The Soyuz-Fregat launcher will place the probe into a transfer orbit to Venus. The Express will travel through space for five months and once it is captured by the planet’s gravity it will take five days to manoeuvre into its operational orbit.Venus Express employs much of the technology of the earlier Mars Express craft. The mission will attempt to resolve some of the mysteries of the Earth’s nearest neighbour. In particular why a planet so similar in size and composition has evolved in such a different way from our own world. Venus has an atmosphere composed mostly of carbon dioxide – there is crushing pressure and burning hot temperatures on its surface.