Two US missions to the planet Venus – possibly the first habitable planet in our solar system – will study how it became hothouse incapable of supporting life, NASA said on Wednesday.
“The missions aim to understand how Venus became an inferno-like world when it has so many other characteristics similar to ours – and may have been the first habitable world in the solar system, complete with an ocean and Earth-like climate,” NASA said in a press release on Wednesday.
A mission named Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry and Imaging (DAVINCI+) consists of a probe that will descend into the Venus’ shrouded atmosphere. Here, scientists hope to learn how the planet formed and evolved, as well as to determine whether the world ever had an ocean, the release said.
A second mission dubbed Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography, and Spectroscopy (VERITAS) will orbit the planet with a synthetic aperture radar able to penetrate clouds that hide the planet’s surface from astronomers on Earth, the release added.
NASA explained in the release that VERITAS will map Venus’ surface to determine the planet’s geologic history and understand why it developed so differently than Earth.
The satellite will also map infrared emissions from Venus’ surface to identify and map its rock type, which is largely unknown, and determine whether active volcanoes are releasing water vapor into the atmosphere, the release said.
“We’re revving up our planetary science program with intense exploration of a world that NASA hasn’t visited in over 30 years,” NASA Associate Administrator for Science Thomas Zurbuchen said in the release.
“Using cutting-edge technologies that NASA has developed and refined over many years of missions and technology programs, we’re ushering in a new decade of Venus to understand how an Earth-like planet can become a hothouse.”
NASA is budgeting about $500 million to develop each mission, with launches expected in the 2028-2030 timeframe, according to the release.
US-Russia Space Ties
Nelson decried what he called were concerning statements from the Russian government and some in the Russian space program about pulling out of the International Space Station or teaming up with China for a Moon mission.
“What I hope is that they are going to think long and hard before they would pull out of the cooperation that they have had with us,” Nelson said during a press conference.
NASA chief said that he will be speaking on Friday with the head of Russian space agency Roscosmos Dmitry Rogozin and pins hopes on the US-Russian scheduled for June 16.
“Let’s see how the summit goes between the two Presidents,” Nelson said.
“My experience in government is that you have the politics that kind of gets in the way. But people on the line that are doing the work they have a different thought. And suspect that most of the people in the Russian space program really enjoy working with the Americans,” he said.
The United States wants to continue this cooperation dating back to the Soyuz-Apollo mission of 1975, Nelson added.