The Europeans have visited more recently, with their Venus Express in action around the hothouse planet until 2014. Japan has had an orbiter around Venus since 2015 to study the climate.
It's a forbidding place: the thick carbon-dioxide atmosphere is home to sulfuric acid clouds.
“A new era in the exploration of our closest, yet wildly different, solar system neighbour awaits us,” the European Space Agency's science director, Gunther Hasinger, said in a statement.
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