- This is the first time humans have sent probes to the planet since the early 1990s.
- The missions, known as DAVINCI + and VERITAS, are expected to launch in the late 2020s.
- Venus made the news in 2020, when scientists announced the discovery of a possible sign of life high in the planet’s clouds.
After more than 30 years, we are returning to Venus.
Wednesday, NASA announced a pair of upcoming robotic missions to study our nearest neighbor, the first time humans have sent probes to the planet since the early 1990s.
According to NASA, the purpose of the missions is to understand how Venus became a hell-like world when it has so many other characteristics similar to ours – and was perhaps the first habitable world in the solar system, with an ocean and the Earth – like the climate.
The missions, known as DAVINCI + and VERITAS, are expected to launch in the late 2020s.
“We are re-energizing our planetary science program with intense exploration of a world that NASA has not visited for over 30 years,” Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA associate administrator for science, said in a statement.
“Using cutting-edge technologies that NASA has developed and perfected over many years of technology missions and programs, we are ushering in a new decade of Venus to understand how an Earth-like planet can become a greenhouse.
“Our goals are profound. It is not just to understand the evolution of planets and the habitability of our own solar system, but to extend beyond these borders to exoplanets, a domain of exciting and emerging research for NASA, ”he said.
Exoplanets are planets located beyond our solar system.
DAVINCI + (acronym for Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gas, Chemistry, and Imaging) will measure the composition of Venus’ atmosphere to understand how it formed and evolved, as well as to confirm whether the planet has ever had an ocean.
The mission consists of a probe that will dive into the planet’s thick atmosphere, making precise measurements of rare gases and other elements to understand why the atmosphere of Venus is a greenhouse compared to that of Earth.
Life on Venus? :Astronomers see a hint of life in the clouds of Venus
Temperatures on the surface of Venus are around 900 degrees, which is hot enough to melt lead.
The other mission, VERITAS (Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography, and Spectroscopy) will map the surface of Venus to determine the geological history of the planet and understand why it has developed so differently from Earth.
Venus made the news in 2020, when scientists announced the discovery of a possible sign of life high in the planet’s clouds, according to a study by the journal Nature Astronomy.
Using telescopes based in Chile and Hawaii, astronomers have spotted the chemical signature of phosphine in the clouds of Venus, a harmful gas that on Earth is only associated with life.
Based on the many scenarios envisioned by astronomers, the team concluded that there was no explanation for the phosphine detected in the clouds of Venus other than the presence of life.
DAVINCI + could help prove the existence of phosphine on Venus, scientists say.
“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 on its surface to its core.” , said Tom Wagner, Scientist in the NASA Discovery Program. “It will be as if we have rediscovered the planet.”