NASA sending two spacecraft to Venus to study boiling planet’s mysteries

After three decades, NASA is going back to a “hell-like” planet.

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This is a computer-simulated global view of the northern hemisphere of Venus based on data from missions to the planet.

Venus may finally get some long-pending attention from NASA. The second planet from the Sun has been called Earth’s twin, although the rocky world evolved very differently from our lush, water-filled, life-filled planet. On Wednesday, NASA announced that it has selected two new official missions, Veritas and DaVinci+, to visit Venus as part of the agency’s Discovery program.

Each mission will receive $500 million for development with an expected launch time frame of 2028 to 2030. NASA Administrator Bill Nelson shared the selection during his State of NASA address on Wednesday.

Mars may be the star of NASA’s planetary exploration efforts these days, but blazing-hot Venus is attracting scientists, especially after a 2020 study examines possible presence of phosphine, a gas that is sometimes produced by microbes in the planet’s clouds.

The VERITAS (for “Venus Emissions, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography and Spectroscopy”) mission is designed to map the surface of Venus to provide answers to how it and Earth so radically separated. It remains to be seen whether volcanism and other geologic processes are still active.

DaVinci+ (Deep Atmosphere Venus Noble Gases, Chemistry, and Imaging Probe) will focus on the atmosphere of Venus and look at whether the planet ever had oceans. “DaVinci+ descends through Venus’ inhospitable atmosphere to the surface to precisely measure its composition,” NASA said of the proposal.

NASA’s Discovery program, which began in 1992, focuses on minor planetary science missions that fill gaps in the current lineup of missions such as NASA’s Perseverance rover on Mars and the Juno spacecraft at Jupiter.

“It’s amazing how little we know about Venus, but the combined results of these missions will tell us about the planet, from the clouds in its sky to the volcanoes,” said Tom Wagner. NASA’s Discovery Program scientist said in a statement. “It will look like we’ve rediscovered the planet.”

Discovery has already built up quite a legacy, including the still-active Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and InSight Lander on Mars. to come Manas Mission Another program partner is to visit the nickel-iron asteroid.

NASA Announcement Day like this can be stressful for scientists who have devoted years to developing mission concepts. There were four ongoing missions that were selected for further study in early 2020. Each idea received $3 million and nine months to develop the concept.

While Davinci+ and Veritas have got the green light, it means two other missions will be missed. The Io Volcano Observer (IVO) set its sights on Jupiter’s moon Io to answer questions about the volcanically active world. Trident proposed sending a spacecraft to fly by Neptune’s icy moon Triton to see how habitable worlds might evolve.

Various NASA spacecraft have flown to Venus in recent years, but the agency has not launched a dedicated Venus mission since Magellan, which reached the planet in 1990 to map the surface. Magellan lost contact in 1994.

Future missions have the potential to crack some of Venus’s mysteries, including the question of whether it might host any sort of microbial life. Venus may seem like an inhospitable hell-planet, but we don’t know much about it yet.

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