NASA on Wednesday announced plans to launch two new science missions to Venus between 2028 and 2030 — the first in decades — to study the atmosphere and geological features of Earth’s so-called sister planet.
The US space agency reported that it has committed nearly $500 million to develop each of two missions: DAVINCI+ (short for Investigating the Deep Venus’s Deep Atmosphere for Noble Gases, Chemistry, and Imaging) and VERITAS (short for Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, Ensar, and Topography). and spectroscopic analysis).
NASA said DAVINCI+ will measure the composition of Venus’s dense atmosphere in an effort to better understand how it evolved, while Veritas will map the planet’s surface from orbit to help determine its geologic history and why it evolved differently from Earth.
DAVINCI+, which consists of a spacecraft flying above it and an air landing probe, is also expected to display the first high-resolution images of a unique geological structure on Venus known as a “mosaic”. Scientists believe these features may be comparable to Earth’s continents, and suggest that Venus has plate tectonics, according to a NASA announcement.
The closest planet to Earth and second to the Sun, Venus, has a similar composition but is slightly smaller than Earth, with a diameter of about 12,000 kilometers (7,500 miles).
There is a dense, toxic atmosphere above the forecast landscape, composed mostly of carbon dioxide, with clouds of sulfuric acid droplets. The result is an uncontrolled greenhouse effect that scorches the surface of Venus at temperatures up to 880 degrees Fahrenheit (471 degrees Celsius) hot enough to melt lead.
Venus has recently received less scientific attention than Mars, Earth’s closest neighbor, and elsewhere in the solar system.
“We are accelerating our planetary science program with intense exploration of a world that NASA has not visited in more than 30 years,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s director of science in a statement announcing the missions.
NASA’s Magellan spacecraft, which reached Venus in 1990, produced the first global map of the surface of Venus, as well as global maps of the planet’s gravitational field.
In 1994, the Magellan spacecraft was sent to dive to the surface of Venus to collect data about its atmosphere before it stopped working.