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NASA will send two missions to Venus for the first time in more than 30 years

NASA will send two missions to Venus for the first time in more than 30 years

The agency has selected two new robotic missions to explore the underworld of Venus, Earth’s neighbor and the second from the Sun, Administrator Bill Nelson announced Wednesday. The two missions, DAVINCI+ and VERITAS, were among four competing proposals in the latest round of NASA’s Discovery Program, which runs smaller planetary exploration missions with a reduced budget of about $500 million each.

“These twin missions aim to understand how Venus became an infernal world capable of melting lead on the surface,” Nelson said in his first “State of NASA” address at agency headquarters in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. “They will provide the entire scientific community with the opportunity to explore a planet we haven’t visited in more than 30 years.”

DAVINCI+, scheduled to launch around 2029, will be the first US-led mission into the atmosphere of Venus since 1978, when NASA’s Pioneer II mission plunged into the clouds of Venus for scientific studies. The spacecraft will fly close to Venus twice to take close-up pictures of the planet’s surface before exploding an automated probe into its thick atmosphere to measure its gases and other elements.

An image of Venus taken by NASA’s Parker Solar Probe last summer shows the mysterious night side of the planet and reveals a surprisingly clear view of its surface.
NASA / Johns Hopkins APL / Naval Research Laboratory / Guillermo Steinborg and Brendan Gallagher

take care of the flower Rosa Last year during a NASA review of the four missions, when a separate international team of researchers Published results that harmful gases and phosphine, may have been floating in the clouds of Venus – an intriguing theory that suggested early signs of extraterrestrial life, as phosphine is known to be produced primarily by living organisms. But other researchers disputed the team’s findings, leaving the phosphine theory open. DAVINCI+’s sinking into the atmosphere of Venus could once and for all solve this mystery.

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When the research was published, former NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said, “It’s time to prioritize Venus.” Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for science at NASA, says: the edge that although the two probes could help confirm phosphine research, they were chosen for their scientific value, proposed program, and other factors independent of the phosphine results.

The second mission, VERITAS, is a probe expected to be launched around 2028, shortly before DAVINCI+. It will orbit Venus and map its surface just as NASA’s Magellan probe did for four years starting in 1990, but with a sharper focus, it will give scientists a better picture of the planet’s geological history. It will use synthetic aperture radar and surface elevation tracking to “create three-dimensional reconstructions of the topography and confirm whether processes such as plate tectonics and volcanism are still active on Venus,” according to NASA. He said in the current situation.

Another camera on VERITAS will be sensitive to a wavelength that can detect signs of water vapor in Venus’s atmosphere, which, if detected, could indicate that active volcanoes erupt on the planet’s surface long ago.

Taken together, the two missions show that NASA is finally working on Venus, a hot, hot planet far from other scientifically known planets like Mars. Two discovery-class missions that competed with DAVINCI+ and VERITAS were TRIDENT, which will study Neptune’s icy moon, Triton, and Io Volcano Observer (IVO), which will study tidal forces on Jupiter’s moon Io.

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The twin missions are aimed at Venus to counter the possibility that the planet might one day be habitable. “Venus is closer to the sun, it’s a warm home now, but one day it could have been different,” says Thomas Wagner, head of NASA’s Discovery Program. the edge. Studying the planet’s atmosphere more closely could provide scientists with clues about how it evolved over time to allow Venus to become the infernal world it is today, with surface temperatures of around 900 degrees Fahrenheit.

The missions could also help scientists learn to look at exoplanets and distant planets in other solar systems. Although Venus is hot and uninhabitable, it lies in the Goldilocks region of our solar system, a term scientists use to describe the location of exoplanets whose distances from the Sun are in the right place to promote life. Wagner says Venus could be a model, right next to Earth, to help us understand distant exoplanets. The planet’s distance from our sun also raises equally interesting questions about why Venus turned out to be the hell it is today.

“Because Venus is in the region of the golden threads, we want to know what happened on Venus,” Wagner says.