NASA has decided to undertake two new missions to Venus, the planet closest to Earth and which has many characteristics similar to our planet: «it may have been the first habitable world in the solar system, complete with ocean and Earth-like climate», Reads the statement from NASA. These missions will also speak Italian, not only because the Italian Space Agency participates but because one of the two explorations was given the name of the great Italian scientist Leonardo da Vinci.
(credits photo NASA)
Each mission should be launched in the period 2028-2030. The selected missions are: DAVINCI + (Investigation of the deep atmosphere of Venus on noble gases, chemistry and images) and will measure the composition of the atmosphere of Venus to understand how it was formed and evolved, as well as determining if the planet has ever had an ocean. The mission consists of a descent sphere that will dive through the thick atmosphere of the planet, making precise measurements of noble gases and other elements.
Furthermore, DAVINCI + will return the first high resolution images of the unique geological features on Venus known as “tessere”, which can be comparable to the continents of the Earth, suggesting that Venus has plate tectonics. The mission could rewrite and reinterpret our understanding of the formation of terrestrial planets in our solar system and beyond.
VERITAS (Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography and Spectroscopy) is the other mission and will map the surface of Venus to determine the planet’s geological history and understand why it developed so differently from Earth. 3D reconstructions will be made to find out if processes such as plate tectonics and volcanism are still active on Venus. VERITAS will also try to understand the type of rock that distinguishes Venus, which is largely unknown, to determine if active volcanoes are releasing water vapor into the atmosphere.
The German Aerospace Center will provide the infrared mapper, while the Italian Space Agency and the French Center National d’Etudes Spatiales will contribute to the radar and other parts of the mission.
«Using cutting-edge technologies that NASA has developed and perfected over many years of missions and technology programs, we are ushering in a new decade of Venus to understand how an Earth-like planet can become a greenhouse. It’s not just about understanding the evolution of planets and habitability in our solar system, but about extending beyond these borders to exoplanets, an exciting and emerging research area for NASA.Said Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s science administrator.