Venus planet creates a lot of questions and thus NASA chooses two robotic missions to disclose its mysteries. The Venus planet is in earth’s neighborhood and the second planet from the sun. Administrator Bill Nelson announced on Wednesday about these missions. Missions named DAVINCI+ and VERITAS were included in four competing proposals. These are under the recent round of NASA’s Discovery Program. This program holds the exploration of small planets and the budget for this mission is roughly $500 million each.
Nelson says, “These two sister missions have a target to understand and observe how venus became an inferno-like world and how it is capable of melting lead at its surface? “ In his first “State of NASA” address at the agency’s headquarters in Washington, DC he further said that They would offer the entire science community a chance to investigate a planet they have not explored in more than 30 years.
First Mission: DAVINCI+
DAVINCI+ is under work for its launch around 2029 and it will mark the first US-led mission into Venus since 1978. Thus when NASA’s second mission entered the Venusian climate for scientific study. This spacecraft will fly twice around Venus to take close photos of the planet’s surface. But before this, robotic equipment will be sent towards its thick atmosphere for investigation of gases and different elements.
Last year, NASA reviewed four missions which increased the curiosity about studying this planet. At that time a separate team including many researchers published their study, in which it is mentioned that noxious gas, phosphine probably floating in the climate of venus.
This theory gave the first sign of life on Venus because phosphine is known to be made living organisms mostly. But other researchers counter the team’s findings and this phosphine theory ended at that time. To clarify such doubts, DAVINCI+’s plunge through its atmosphere could solve this mystery.
When this study about phosphine published
NASA’s previous administrator, Jim Bridenstine, said “It is the time when we should start prioritizing Venus.” NASA’s science associate administrator, Thomas Zurbuchen, says to The Verge, “Although the two probes could help confirm the phosphine research, they were picked for their scientific value, proposed timeline, and other factors independent of the phosphine findings”.
Second Mission: VERITAS
VERITAS is the second mission which will be launched around 2028 just before the launch of DAVINCI+. Spacecraft of this mission will orbit Venus and will do mapping of its surface which will be much similar to NASA’s Magellan probe did for four years beginning in 1990. But this mission compared to that will do its work with much focus so that scientists get a clear picture of the planet’s geological history. This mission will use synthetic aperture radar and track surface elevations.
NASA said that These types of equipment will help to “create 3D reconstructions of topography and confirm whether processes such as plate tectonics and volcanism are still active on Venus.”
There will be another camera on VERITAS, able to detect any sign of water vapor in the planet’s atmosphere because of its sensitivity to a specific wavelength. This will hint at how active volcanoes had disappeared long ago.
Venus is a hot planet as it is closer to the sun, but it may have been different in the past.
Aim of these missions
The two spacecraft aim to counter the fact that the Venus planet was once liveable. The study of this planet would tell us how this planet became so hot with its surface temperature around 900 degrees Fahrenheit.
It also helps scientists to learn how to observe and look upon exoplanets, distant planets in the solar system. Venus sits in the Goldilocks zone of our solar system. This is the term scientists use to characterize the position of exoplanets whose distances from the Sun sit in just the right spot to foster life. Wagner says, could be a model, right next to Earth, to help us study and understand exoplanets that are farther away. The planet’s distance from our Sun also put equally interesting questions about how Venus became a hell-like planet today.
Wagner further stated, “Since Venus is in the goldilocks zone, we want to know what the heck went on on Venus.” With these two missions, NASA is going to another known popular planet like Mars for the existence of life. The two Discovery-class missions that competed with DAVINCI+ and VERITAS were TRIDENT, which would’ve studied Neptune’s icy moon Triton, and the Io Volcano Observer (IVO). These perhaps would’ve studied the tidal forces on Jupiter’s moon Io.
This upcoming event has capabilities to disclose the mysteries of the planet, which includes whether there is a possibility of microbial life on Venus or not. Venus may look like a very difficult planet to live on but many questions are yet to be answered.