The space agency announced its plans to visit the hottest planet in the solar system.
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While Elon Musk is focused on colonizing Mars, NASA has another target: Venus. The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration announced that it will return to the hottest planet in the solar system. The last mission to Earth’s neighbor was in 1994, while the next explorations will take place at the end of this decade.
This past Wednesday, NASA announced that sometime between 2028 and 2030 they will launch two missions that will visit Venus. This would be the first direct exploration of the planet in 34 years.
These expeditions are the latest projects in NASA’s Discovery Program, a kind of internal incubator for planetary science missions.
A mission will be called VERITAS (‘truth’ in Latin), which is short for “Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography, and Spectroscopy.” This spacecraft is planned to orbit the planet to map and study it from above. The main objective will be to understand how Venus evolved to reach surface temperatures of almost 500 degrees Celsius and an atmosphere so dense that almost no known organism could withstand it.
The other is called DAVINCI +, short for “Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry, and Imaging Plus.” This mission will attempt to land on the surface to sample the atmosphere and to understand its chemical composition.
Today we announce two new missions to study the planet Venus, which we have not visited in over 30 years! DAVINCI + will analyze its atmosphere and VERITAS will map the surface. #StateOfNASA
Read more https://t.co/M237gwgsCg pic.twitter.com/ii4rUodo0A
– NASA in Spanish (@NASA_es) June 2, 2021
“These two sister missions both aim to understand how Venus became an inferno-like world capable of melting lead at the surface,” said Bill Nelson, NASA administrator, at a press conference.”They will offer the entire science community a chance to investigate a planet we haven’t been to in more than 30 years.”
Will NASA look for life on Venus?
During the press conference, NASA did not mention that any of the missions look for traces of alien life. However, the agency previously warned of the possibility of microbial life floating in the atmosphere of Venus. In addition, a controversial finding last year suggested that a gas associated with life may be present there.
The study prompted then-NASA administrator Jim Brindenstine to declare that “it is time to prioritize Venus,” as quoted by The New York Times.
Indeed, the missions to Venus took precedence over two other proposals. One of them, called Trident, would fly over Neptune’s largest moon. The other, named Io Volcanic Observer, would make 10 flybys of Jupiter’s moon Io.
Currently, NASA’s Discovery Program includes the Lucy and Psyche missions to explore Trojan asteroids near Jupiter and a metal-rich asteroid orbiting beyond Mars. The two missions it has active today are the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and the InSight module on Mars.