3:46 PM PDT, June 3, 2021
Two new discovery missions will take place over the next decade that will explore the fascinating planet Venus and find out how it became an inferno-like world, NASA announced Wednesday. A mission of this magnitude hasn’t been done in more than three decades.
“We have not been on Venus for over 30 years here at NASA,” NASA Science Associate Administrator Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen said. “It is the one planet we know least about.”
The two sister missions will be launched between 2028 and 2030. NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in his State of NASA address that he hopes the DAVINCI+ and VERITAS missions will help answer questions we have about Venus and our solar system, CBS News reported.
“We hope these missions will further our understanding of how Earth evolved and why it’s currently habitable when others in our solar system are not,” Nelson said. “Planetary science is critical in answering key questions that we have as humans like ‘are we alone?'”
The selected mission concepts, chosen from the agency’s Discover 2019 competition, are called DAVINCI (Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry and Imaging) + and VERITAS (Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography, and Spectroscopyare).
Each will be awarded approximately $500 million for development, the space agency said.
Some of the exploration DAVINCI will measure is the planet’s atmosphere and determine how Venus evolved and if the planet ever had an ocean.
The other mission, VERITAS will use an aperture radar to map Venus’ surface and investigate the planet’s geological history and compare its findings from Earth, NASA said.
Zurbuchen called their goals “profound.” ”It is not just understanding the evolution of planets and habitability in our own solar system, but extending beyond these boundaries to exoplanets, an exciting and emerging area of research for NASA.”
The two missions would be the first U.S. spacecraft sent to Venus since 1978, when Orbiter and Multiprobe were launched, according to NASA.