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Venus, the Planet: Introduction to the Evolution of Earth’s Sister Planet
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  • Joseph O'Rourke,
  • Colin Wilson,
  • Madison Borrelli,
  • Paul K. Byrne,
  • Caroline Dumoulin,
  • Richard Ghail,
  • Anna Gülcher,
  • Seth Jacobson,
  • Oleg Korablev,
  • Tilman Spohn,
  • Michael Way,
  • Matt Weller,
  • Frances Westall
Joseph O'Rourke
Arizona State University, Arizona State University

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Colin Wilson
European Space Research and Technology Centre,University of Oxford, European Space Research and Technology Centre,University of Oxford
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Madison Borrelli
Arizona State University, Arizona State University
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Paul K. Byrne
Washington University in St. Louis,North Carolina State University, Washington University in St. Louis,North Carolina State University
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Caroline Dumoulin
Nantes Université, Nantes Université
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Richard Ghail
Royal Holloway, University of London, Royal Holloway, University of London
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Anna Gülcher
ETH Zurich, ETH Zurich
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Seth Jacobson
Michigan State University, Michigan State University
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Oleg Korablev
Space Research Institute IKI, Space Research Institute IKI
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Tilman Spohn
International Space Science Institute, International Space Science Institute
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Michael Way
NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies
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Matt Weller
Lunar and Planetary Institute, Lunar and Planetary Institute
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Frances Westall
CNRS-Centre de Biophysique Moléculaire, CNRS-Centre de Biophysique Moléculaire
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Venus is the planet in the Solar System most similar to Earth in terms of size and (probably) bulk composition. Until the mid-20th century, scientists thought that Venus was a verdant world—inspiring science-fictional stories of heroes battling megafauna in sprawling jungles. At the start of the Space Age, people learned that Venus actually has a hellish surface, baked by the greenhouse effect under a thick, CO2-rich atmosphere. In popular culture, Venus was demoted from a jungly playground to (at best) a metaphor for the redemptive potential of extreme adversity. However, whether Venus was much different in the past than it is today remains unknown. In this review, we show how now-popular models for the evolution of Venus mirror how the scientific understanding of modern Venus has changed over time. Billions of years ago, Venus could have had a clement surface with water oceans. Venus perhaps then underwent at least one dramatic transition in atmospheric, surface, and interior conditions before present day. This review kicks off a topical collection about all aspects of Venus’s evolution and how understanding Venus can teach us about other planets, including exoplanets. Here we provide the general background and motivation required to delve into the other manuscripts in this collection. Finally, we discuss how our ignorance about the evolution of Venus motivated the prioritization of new spacecraft missions that will essentially rediscover Earth’s nearest planetary neighbor—beginning a new age of Venus exploration.