NASA is ending its 30-year Venus drought with two new missions

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To be honest, it’s a bit difficult to understand why NASA has not been more optimistic about returning to Venus in such a long time. Indeed, due to its harsh environment, Venus has always been a difficult guy to explore. The surface temperature is as high as 471 °C (enough to melt lead), and the environmental pressure is 89 times that of the earth. 96% of the atmosphere is carbon dioxide. The planet is covered by a thick cloud of sulfuric acid. When the Soviet Union landed the Venus 13 probe on this planet in 1982, it took 127 minutes to be destroyed.

However, we know that the conditions there are not always so harsh! As we all know, Venus and the Earth originated in similar worlds with similar masses, and both are located in the sun’s habitable zone (a region where liquid water may exist on the planet’s surface). But only the earth became habitable, and Venus became hell. Scientists want to know why. Byrne said these new missions “will help us fundamentally answer the question of why our sibling planet is not our twin?”

Just last year, another major development prompted NASA to take Venus exploration more seriously: the search for the prospect of life. In September 2020, scientists announced that they might have found phosphine gas in the atmosphere of Venus—it is known to be produced by biological life. In the following months, these findings were subject to rigorous scrutiny, and it is still unclear whether the phosphine readings are true. But all the excitement sparked a discussion that it might be possible to find extraterrestrial life on Venus. This attractive new prospect has made Venus the center of attention of the public (and possibly legislators who approve NASA’s budget).

Choosing these two new missions “is a very clear statement from NASA to the Venus community, that is,’We have seen you, we know you have been ignored, and we will change it for the better,'” said Stephen Kane, University of California Astronomers at the Riverside Campus. “This is an incredible moment.”

DAVINCI+ is the abbreviation for “Deep Atmospheric Venus Rare Gas, Chemistry and Imaging Research”. This is a spacecraft that will crash into the dense and hot atmosphere of Venus and then land on the surface. During the 63-minute descent, it will use multiple spectrometers to study the chemical composition and composition of the atmosphere. It will also image the Venus landscape to better understand its crust and topography (if successful, it will be the first probe to photograph Venus during its descent).

VERITAS is the abbreviation of Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography and Spectroscopy, and is an orbiter designed to conduct other research from a safer distance. It will use radar and near-infrared spectroscopy to observe and observe the geology and topography of the planet under the thick clouds.

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