DAVINCI+ and VERITAS missions will launch to Venus in the late 2020s.
The space race has heated up in a big way. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced plans to send two new spacecraft to study Venus as the first U.S. missions to the hell-scape planet since 1989.
The missions, known as DAVINCI+ and Veritas, would use sensors to analyze the searing hot atmosphere in an attempt to determine how it evolved, and to map the rugged surface.
“Both aim to understand how Venus became an inferno capable of melting lead at the surface,” [NASA Administrator Bill] Nelson said during the annual State of NASA address in Washington D.C.
“They will offer the entire science community the chance to investigate a planet we haven’t been to in more than 30 years.”
DAVINCI+ stands for Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry, and Imaging. It will focus on the plant’s atmosphere to better understand how it evolved.
The mission consists of a descent sphere that will plunge through the planet’s thick atmosphere, making precise measurements of noble gases and other elements to understand why Venus’ atmosphere is a runaway hothouse compared the Earth’s.
In addition, DAVINCI+ will return the first high resolution pictures of the unique geological features on Venus known as “tesserae,” which may be comparable to Earth’s continents, suggesting that Venus has plate tectonics. This would be the first U.S.-led mission to Venus’ atmosphere since 1978, and the results from DAVINCI+ could reshape our understanding of terrestrial planet formation in our solar system and beyond. James Garvin of Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, is the principal investigator. Goddard provides project management.
VERITAS (Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography, and Spectroscopy) will focus on the planet’s surface.
VERITAS, or Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography, and Spectroscopy, will map the planet from orbit using a synthetic aperture radar system. It will also search for infrared emissions that could help scientists determine if there is active volcanism.
“It is astounding 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 through the volcanoes on its surface all the way down to its very core,” said Tom Wagner, NASA’s Discovery program scientist, in a statement. “It will be as if we have rediscovered the planet.”
There was a great deal of competition for the funding. Other missions NASA considered included those to the moons of Jupiter and Neptune. In the end, they decided to try and better understand how the Earth-sized planet evolved so differently than our planet.
“These two sister missions both aim to understand how Venus became an inferno-like world capable of melting lead at the surface,” Nelson said in his first address to the NASA workforce. “They will offer the entire science community the chance to investigate a planet we haven’t been to in more than 30 years.”
“This is beyond our wildest dreams,” said Martha Gilmore, a planetary scientist at Wesleyan University who is working with both missions. She notes these two missions were rejected in the last round of selections for NASA’s Discovery Program in 2017, so Venus proponents went into the selection process this time without any certainty of success. “I think we’re relieved. I feel a lot of relief.”
DAVINCI+ and VERITAS missions will launch to Venus in the late 2020s.DONATE
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