Nasa has selected two new missions to venus as part of NASA’s discovery program. The missions aim to understand how venus became an inferno-like world when it has so many other characteristics similar to earth. It may have been the first habitable world in the solar system, complete with an ocean and earth-like climate. Nasa will launch these two ambitious missions between 2028 and 2030. This marks a considerable change in direction for NASA’s planetary science division, which stopped sending missions to the planet in 1990 and lost the habitable world of venus. The atmosphere of venus contains sulfuric acid and the surface.
Temperatures are hot enough to melt lead, but it has not always been this way. It is thought venus started out very similar to the earth. So what happened while on earth carbon is mainly trapped in rocks on venus. It has escaped into the atmosphere, making it roughly 96 carbon dioxide. This has led to a runaway greenhouse effect, pushing surface temperatures up to 750 kelvin, that is 470 degrees Celsius or 900 degrees Fahrenheit.
The planet’s history makes it an excellent place to study the greenhouse effect and learn how to manage it on earth. We can use models which plot the atmospheric extremes of venus and compare the results to what we see back home. The hostile world of venus hides a wealth of information that could help us better understand the earth and exoplanets. So, let’s see the selected missions first; one is DaVinci plus, which stands for deep atmosphere. Venus investigation of noble gases, chemistry, and imaging da Vinci will measure the composition of venus’s atmosphere to understand how it formed and evolved, as well as determine whether the planet ever had an ocean.
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’s atmosphere is a runaway hothouse compared to the earth’s. In addition, DaVinci plus 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, suggest that venus has plate tectonics. This would be the first u.s led mission to venus’s atmosphere since 1978, and the results from da Vinci plus could reshape our understanding of terrestrial planet formation in our solar system and beyond.
James Garvin of Goddard space flight center in greenbelt is the principal investigator. Godard provides project management. The second mission is called veritas. Veritas stands for venus, emissivity, radio, science, insa topography, and spectroscopy veritas. Will map venus’s surface to determine the planet’s geologic history and understand why it developed so differently than earth. Orbiting Venus with a synthetic aperture radar veritas will chart surface elevations over nearly the entire planet to create 3d reconstructions of topography and confirm whether processes such as plate Tectonics and volcanism are still active on venus. Veritas will also map infrared emissions from venus surface to map its rock type, which is largely unknown, and determine whether active volcanoes release water vapor into the atmosphere.
Essen rakar of NASA’s jet propulsion laboratory in southern California is JPL’s principal investigator for project management. In addition to the two missions, veritas will host the deep space atomic clock too. The ultra-precise clock signal generated with this technology will ultimately help enable autonomous spacecraft and maneuvers and enhance radio science observations. Davinci plus will host the compact ultraviolet-to-visible imaging spectrometer. It will make high-resolution measurements of ultraviolet light using a new instrument based on freeform optics. These observations will be used to determine the nature of the unknown ultraviolet absorber in the venus atmosphere that absorbs up to half the incoming solar energy.
It is thrilling that the international community is taking note of venus and proposing missions. Most of the exploration done so far was carried out by the then soviet union between the 1960s and the 1980s. Some notable exceptions exist, such as NASA’s pioneer venus mission in 1972 and the European space agency’s venus express mission in 2006. The first landing happened in 1970 when the soviet union’s Venera 7 crashed due to the parachute melting, but it managed to transmit 20 minutes of data back to earth. The first surface images were taken by Venera 9.
Now it is exciting that NASA has turned its planetary mission view towards venus, and, most importantly, the information that can be gained from earth’s forgotten sister will be of very high value for understanding our world.
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