NASA has announced the winner of a competition to determine targets for a new round of exploration missions. The space exploration agency has opted for a pair of missions to Venus, the first for NASA in over 30 years. These missions were launched under NASA’s Discovery Program, which funds small-scale space programs of $ 500 million or less per launch.
The two probes, DAVINCI + and VERITAS, will restore new data on the evolution and current structures of the second planet from the Sun. Both are acronyms: DAVINCI + stands for Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gas, Chemistry, and Imaging, Plus, while VERITAS stands for Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography, and Spectroscopy.
DAVINCI +, according to NASA, is a two-vehicle affair with a spacecraft and a probe. The instruments on board each are fairly straightforward. The objective of the Venus Analytic Laboratory is to descend into the Venusian atmosphere and measure its composition at different altitudes. Long-term surface survival is not expected; modern electronics are not able to maintain operation on Venus for a period of time. DAVINCI + will carry a mass spectrometer to measure rare and trace gases in the atmosphere of Venus, a laser spectrometer, an atmospheric structural analysis tool (VASI) and the Venus Descent Imager – a camera to capture images from the terrain to the ‘location of the descent.
VERITAS will attempt to find out if Venus has ever had water on the surface and will determine if Venus is currently actively volcanic. VERITAS would carry two instruments, the Venus Emissivity Mapper (VEM) and the Venus Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (VISAR). VISAR would collect data to generate topographic maps of the world.
“Venus is a ‘Rosetta Stone’ for reading the record books of climate change, the evolution of habitability and what happens when a planet loses a long period of surface oceans,” said James Garvin, DAVINCI + principal investigator at NASA’s Goddard space flight. Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “But Venus is ‘difficult’ since every clue is hidden behind the curtain of a massive opaque atmosphere with inhospitable conditions for surface exploration, so we have to be smart and bring our best ‘scientific tools’ to Venus in innovative ways. with missions like DAVINCI +. This is why we named our mission “DAVINCI +” after the inspired and visionary Renaissance thinking of Leonardo da Vinci who went beyond science to connect with engineering, technology and even art. ”
Venus and its evolution have long been a puzzle for scientists, so there is hope that this new research will shed new light on the evolution of the planet. Unlike Mars, which is much smaller than Earth, Venus is often thought of as our planetary twin, with very similar mass and gravity. Despite these basic similarities, the surface of Venus is one of the least suitable places for life in the entire solar system. It is literally easier to protect humans who roam in the void than on the surface of Venus.
But there are theories that Venus could have been much more Earth-like a long time ago. One argument is that it is Earth’s plate tectonics that has kept our surface mild for so long. At Venus’ distance from the sun, the theory is that the planet’s lithosphere is too plastic. Cracks and breaks the seal again. This creates a “stagnant cover” tectonic system. Mars may be governed by similar dynamics, but Mars’ relatively small mass means the planet has cooled faster. The “cover” of Mars, for lack of a better word, seems to have been glued to the top of the planet for some time now.
There is some evidence that this might be less true on Venus. The entire surface of the planet does not appear to be more than 200 million years old, implying a planet-wide resurfacing event at some point. One theory is that on Venus, heat builds up and is trapped under the crust until the crust separates, releasing huge amounts of magma. Cataclysmic events like this, combined with Venus’ lack of a magnetic field, may have led to the loss of the planet’s pristine water. It’s also possible that Venus was more habitable when the Sun was much younger and cooler, but its water had evaporated as the Sun’s brightness increased.