To find a habitable world on Venus, NASA has selected two missions namely DAVINCI+ and VERITAS to the Earth’s nearest neighbor. Both missions aim to grasp how Venus became an inferno-like world when it has so many characteristics similar to Earth. The missions will also try to find the traces that Venus may have been the first habitable place in the solar system along with an ocean and Earth-like climate.
The exploration is part of NASA’s ninth Discovery program competition, which has funded 20 missions since 1992, following a competitive, peer-review process. Reportedly, the space agency is expected to allot $500 million to each of these missions that will launch between 2028-2030.
DAVINCI+ stands for “Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry, and Imaging”, is the first US-led mission to the planet’s atmosphere since 1978, which will understand Venus’ composition to see how the planet formed and evolved along with the traces that if it ever had an ocean. The mission also consists of a descent sphere that will pass through the planet’s thick atmosphere and make observations related to noble gases and other elements.
Additionally, the DAVINCI+ will also try to bring the first high-resolution pictures of the unique geological features on Venus known as “tesserae,” which may be comparable to Earth’s continents. The mission could reshape our understanding of terrestrial planet formation in our solar system and beyond.
VERITAS stands for “Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography, and Spectroscopy”, the mission will map Venus’ surface to determine the planet’s geologic past and help us understand why it developed in a different manner from “Earth”. Further, VERITAS will orbit Venus with a synthetic aperture radar to chart surface elevations to confirm whether it has plate tectonics and volcanism. The mission will also map the emissions from Venus’s surface that may help in determining the type of rocks that exist on Venus.
Why these explorations are important
Being the second-brightest object in the sky after the Moon, Venus is called the Earth’s twin because of their similar sizes, the two planets have significant differences between them. The planet’s thick atmosphere traps heat and is the reason that it is the hottest planet with surface temperatures that can go up to 471 degrees Celsius, which is hot enough to melt lead.
The two missions could help scientists figure out what causes Venus’ extreme temperatures and whether there is life possible on it.