NASA Venus is planning two missions to the planet – the first exhibit in more than 30 years – to study the planet’s atmosphere.
Venus is Earth’s closest planetary neighbor and is often called our sister planet.
NASA wants to explore this relationship with visits in 2028 and 2030. It believes Venus has plate tectonics like Earth, and bakes the surface of Venus at 880F (471C), hot enough to melt lead.
“We are revealing our planetary science program with an in-depth exploration of a world that NASA hasn’t seen in 30 years,” Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s associated administrator for science, said today.
The US space agency said it was awarding approximately $500 million (£350 million) to develop each of the two missions.
The first of these is called DAVINCI+ (short for Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble Gases, Chemistry and Imaging) and the second is called VERITAS (an acronym for Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography and Spectroscopy).
DAVINCI+ will measure the composition of the dense Venusian atmosphere to understand how it evolved, while VERITAS will orbit the planet’s surface to help determine its geological history and why it evolved
Separate from Earth, NASA said.
DAVINCI+, which includes an orbiter and an atmospheric descent probe, is also expected to return the first high-resolution images of unique geological features called “tessera” on Venus. According to the NASA announcement, scientists believe those features can be compared to Earth’s continents and suggest that Venus has plate tectonics.
As the second planet from the Sun, Venus is similar in composition but slightly smaller than Earth, with a diameter of about 7,500 miles (12,000 km).
Above its foreskin landscape is a dense, toxic atmosphere consisting mainly of carbon dioxide with clouds of sulfuric acid droplets. The result is a runaway greenhouse effect, NASA understands.
Venus has recently received less scientific attention than Mars, the next closest planetary neighbor to Earth. However, in 1990, NASA’s Magellan spacecraft reached Venus and made the first global map of the surface of Venus.
In 1994, the Magellan spacecraft was sent to land on the surface of Venus to collect data on its atmosphere before ceasing operations.
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