NASA is planning two missions to Venus to find out why Earth is “currently habitable” while other planets near us are not | US news
NASA plans to launch two new scientific missions to Venus for the first time in over 30 years between 2028 and 2030.
The US space agency said the missions are aimed at improving our understanding of the atmosphere and geological features of the planet.
NASA announced that it is awarding $ 500 million (£ 352 million) to develop each of the two missions, DAVINCI + and VERITAS.
DAVINCI + will measure the composition of the dense Venusian atmosphere and study how it evolved.
In the meantime, VERITAS will map the planet’s surface from orbit to determine its geological history and explain why it evolved so differently from Earth.
DAVINCI + consists of a flyby spaceship and an atmospheric descent probe and is also expected to provide the first high-resolution images of unique geological features on Venus called “Tesserae”.
Scientists believe these features might be comparable to the continents on Earth, and suggest that Venus has plate tectonics.
Announcing the missions, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said, “These two sister missions are both aimed at understanding how Venus became an inferno-like world capable of melting lead on the surface.
“They will give the entire scientific community an opportunity to study a planet we haven’t been on in more than 30 years.”
He added, “We hope these missions will improve our understanding of how the earth evolved and why it is currently habitable while others in our solar system are not.”
The orbit of Venus brings it closer to Earth than any other planet. It is the second planet from the sun and has a similar structure to the earth, but is slightly smaller and about 12,000 km in diameter.
It has a thick, toxic atmosphere made mostly of carbon dioxide, with clouds of sulfuric acid droplets – creating a greenhouse effect that bakes the planet’s surface at temperatures as high as 471 ° C (880 ° F).
Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Science Administrator at NASA, said, “We’re getting our Planetary Science program going with intense exploration of a world that NASA hasn’t visited in over 30 years.”
In 1990 NASA’s Magellan spacecraft reached Earth’s sister planet and created the first global map of Venus’ surface as well as global maps of the planet’s gravitational field.
The Magellan spacecraft was later sent in 1994 to submerge the planet’s surface to collect data on its atmosphere before it ceased operations.