NASA sends two missions to Venus
The two missions, DAVINCI+ and VERITAS, were among four competing proposals under the latest round of NASA’s Discovery Program.
The program wants smaller planetary exploration missions on a budget of about $500 million each.
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These two sister missions aim to understand how Venus became a hell-like world capable of melting lead on the surface.
These two missions provide the entire scientific community with an opportunity to explore a planet we haven’t visited in more than 30 years.
DAVINCI+ is scheduled to launch around 2029 and will be the first US-led mission into the atmosphere of Venus since 1978.
The spacecraft flies close to Venus twice to take close-up pictures of the planet’s surface before dropping an automated probe into its thick atmosphere to measure its gases and other elements.
Interest in Venus rose last year during a NASA review of the four missions, when a separate international team of researchers published findings that the harmful gas, phosphine, may have been floating in Venus’ clouds.
It is known that phosphine is mainly made by living organisms.
But other researchers disputed the team’s findings, leaving the phosphine theory open. The DAVINCI+ mission should definitively solve this puzzle.
NASA invades Venus:
Although the two probes could help confirm phosphine research, they were chosen for their scientific value, proposed schedule, and other factors independent of the phosphine results.
The second mission, VERITAS, is scheduled to launch around 2028, just before DAVINCI+.
The spacecraft orbits Venus and maps its surface much as NASA’s Magellan probe did for four years starting in 1990. But with a sharper focus, scientists give scientists a better picture of the planet’s geological history.
NASA said it is using synthetic aperture radar and tracking surface elevations in order to create 3D reconstructions of the topography and confirm whether processes such as volcanoes are still active on Venus.
There will also be another camera via VERITAS that is wavelength sensitive. Accordingly, it can detect signs of water vapor in the atmosphere of Venus.
The two missions show that NASA is heading towards Venus. It is a hot planet far from other more scientifically known planets such as Mars.
Both missions are aimed at countering the possibility that the planet was once habitable.
Studying the planet’s atmosphere closely can give scientists clues about how it evolved over time and reached what it is today, with surface temperatures of about 482 degrees Celsius.
The missions could also help scientists learn to look at exoplanets and distant planets in other solar systems.
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