NASA Announces Two New Missions to Study the Atmosphere and Surface of Venus

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NASA on Wednesday announced two new missions named “DAVINCI+” and “VERITAS” to study Earth’s neighboring planet, Venus, reported the Hill.

Part of NASA’s Discovery Program, 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.

“DAVINCI+” is an acronym for “Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble Gases, Chemistry, And Imaging,” and it will investigate Venus’s atmosphere “to understand how it formed and evolved, as well as determine whether the planet ever had an ocean,” according to the NASA press release.

“VERITAS” is an acronym for “Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography, and Spectroscopy,” and it will be investigating the geological history of the planet and will “chart surface elevations over nearly the entire planet to create 3D reconstructions of topography and confirm whether processes such as plate tectonics and volcanism are still active on Venus,” according to the NASA press release.

These investigations are the final selections from four mission concepts NASA picked in February 2020 as part of the agency’s Discovery 2019 competition. Following a competitive, peer-review process, the two missions were chosen based on their potential scientific value and the feasibility of their development plans. The project teams will now work to finalize their requirements, designs, and development plans.

NASA says it is awarding approximately $500 million per mission for development. Each is expected to launch in the 2028-2030 timeframe.

In addition to the two missions, NASA selected a pair of technology demonstrations to fly along with them. VERITAS will host the Deep Space Atomic Clock-2, built by JPL and funded by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate. The ultra-precise clock signal generated with this technology will ultimately help enable autonomous spacecraft maneuvers and enhance radio science observations.

“We’re revving up our planetary science program with intense exploration of a world that NASA hasn’t visited in over 30 years,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s associate administrator for science. 

“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,” he added.

“It is astounding how little we know about Venus, but the combined results of these missions will tell us about the planet from the clouds in its sky through the volcanoes on its surface all the way down to its very core,” said Tom Wagner, NASA’s Discovery Program scientist. “It will be as if we have rediscovered the planet,” the spokesman for NASA said.


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Tony Beasley
Tony Beasley writes for the Local News, US and the World Section of ANH.