- NASA has announced two new Venus Missions. It will examine the planet’s atmosphere and geological features.
- The missions called DAVINCI+ and VERITAS have been selected based on their potential for scientific value and the feasibility of their development plans.
- NASA is expected to allot $500 million to each of these missions that will launch between 2028-2030.
About New Venus Missions
Davinci+ Venus Mission
- Davinci+ stands for Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry, and Imaging.
- The mission will measure the planet’s atmosphere to gain insight into how it formed and evolved. It will also aim to determine whether Venus ever had an ocean and was possibly habitable.
- This would be the first U.S.-led mission to Venus’ atmosphere since 1978. The results from the mission could reshape our understanding of terrestrial planet formation in our solar system and beyond.
- VERITAS stands for Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography, and Spectroscopy.
- The mission will map the planet’s surface to understand its geologic history and investigate how it developed so differently than Earth.
- The mission will use a form of radar to chart surface elevations and discover whether volcanoes and earthquakes are still happening.
Have humans visited Venus?
- Because of the planet’s harsh environment, no humans have visited it and even the spacecraft that have been sent to the planet have not survived for a very long time.
- “Venus’ high surface temperatures overheat electronics in spacecraft in a short time, so it seems unlikely that a person could survive for long on the Venusian surface.
- So far, spacecraft from several nations have visited the planet.
- The first such spacecraft was the Soviet Union’s Venera series (the spacecraft, however, could not survive for long because of the planet’s harsh conditions), followed by NASA’s Magellan Mission that studied Venus from 1990-1994. As of now, Japan’s Akatsuki mission is studying the planet from Orbit.
- Shukrayaan-1 is a proposed mission of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to Venus. It aims to study the surface and atmosphere of Venus. It is expected to be launched in 2023.
- The results from DAVINCI+ are expected to reshape the understanding of terrestrial planet formation in the solar system and beyond. Taken together, both missions are expected to tell scientists more about the planet’s thick cloud cover and the volcanoes on its surface.
- Further, scientists speculate about the existence of life on Venus in its distant past and the possibility that life may exist in the top layers of its clouds where temperatures are less extreme.
Back to Basics
- For those on Earth, Venus is the second-brightest object in the sky after the moon.
- It appears bright because of its thick cloud cover that reflects and scatters light.
- But while Venus, which is the second closest planet to the Sun, is called the Earth’s twin because of their similar sizes, the two planets have significant differences between them.
- For one, the planet’s thick atmosphere traps heat and is the reason that it is the hottest planet in the solar system, despite coming after Mercury, the closest planet to the Sun.
- Surface temperatures on Venus can go up to 471 degrees Celsius, which is hot enough to melt lead, NASA notes.
- Further, Venus moves forward on its orbit around the Sun but spins backwards around its axis slowly. This means on Venus the Sun rises in the west and sets in the East.
- One day on Venus is equivalent to 243 Earth days because of its backward spinning, opposite to that of the Earth’s and most other planets. Venus also does not have a moon and no rings.
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