NASA has announced two new robotic missions to Venus, the second closest planet to the Sun. Each will have a reduced budget of $ 500 million.
“These two sister missions aim to understand how Venus became a hellish world capable of melting lead on the surface,” explained Bill Nelson, administrator of the space agency, during the presentation of both projects.
Nelson recalled that NASA has not been on Venus for more than 30 years, when the second Pioneer mission reached the planet’s clouds in 1978. Now it is time for two more missions, DAVINCI + and VERITAS.
Both are part of the proposals that have reached the last round of NASA’s Discovery Program, in charge of managing small-scale planetary exploration missions and that usually have a limited budget. $ 500 million will go to each mission.
Representatives from NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) meet to share their progress to protect Earth from the impact of an asteroid.
VERITAS will be the first to set sail towards the neighboring planet in 2028 equipped with cameras and sensors to perform a 3D reconstruction of the planet’s topography and study the signs of water vapor that would explain the planet’s volcanic activity. A year later it will be the turn of DAVINCI + that in 2029 will fly around Venus twice to take pictures of the planet’s surface and then will launch a robotic probe into its thick atmosphere where you should measure gases and other elements.
Among those elements, there is one that especially intrigues the scientific community, phosphine. In 2020 an international research group published a report on the harmful gases that could be found on the planet, among which was the phosphine, an element produced by living organisms, awakening the hypothesis of a possible inhabited past on Venus.
Not all scientists have endorsed this study, but the analyzes of DAVINCI + and its robotic probe may shed some light on the mystery and provide us with enough information to build a more solid theory about the planet’s past and its conversion into the hell that it is today.
The climate of this planet reaches 430 degree surface temperatures, but, although it is closer to the Sun than the Earth, it is in what scientists call the Goldilocks area, neither too close nor too far from the star to be able to host life at some point.