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NASA will launch a mission that will both pass Venus and descend through its hostile atmosphere in 2029. Called DAVINCI, the Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gas, Chemistry and Imaging mission will be the first to study Venus by both flybys and by descent.
The spacecraft is expected to explore the layered Venusian atmosphere and reach its surface by June 2031. The DAVINCI mission will be able to capture data on Venus that scientists have been eager to measure since the early 1980s.
Only two NASA missions have ever visited the second planet from our sun – Pioneer in 1978 and Magellan in the early 90s.
The DAVINCI spacecraft will essentially serve as a flying chemistry lab that will be able to measure different aspects of Venus’ atmosphere and climate and take the first descent images of the planet’s highlands. The mission’s instruments will also be able to map the Venusian surface and detect the composition of the mountainous highlands of Venus.
These features, called “tesserae,” may be similar to continents on Earth, meaning Venus could have plate tectonics, NASA scientists say.
“This dataset of chemical, environmental and descent imagery will paint a picture of the layered atmosphere of Venus and how it interacts with the surface in the mountains of Alpha Regio, which is twice the size of the Texas,” said Jim Garvin, director of DAVINCI. investigator from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, in a statement.
“These measurements will allow us to assess historical aspects of the atmosphere as well as detect special rock types on the surface, such as granites, while looking for telltale landscape features that could tell us about erosion or degradation. ‘other training processes.’
The initiative would also investigate the possibility of an ocean in Venus’ past by measuring gases and water components in the deepest part of the atmosphere. Venus may have been the first habitable world in our solar system, including an Earth-like ocean and climate – but something happened to make it a planet with temperatures warm enough to melt lead.
Venus likely maintained stable temperatures and hosted liquid water for billions of years before an event triggered drastic changes on the planet, according to a 2019 study. The study’s author, the physicist Michael Way of NASA Goddard Institute for Space Science in New York also co-authored a 2016 study of the climate and oceans on Venus in its past.
Now Venus is a nearly dead planet with a toxic atmosphere 90 times thicker than our home planet and surface temperatures that reach 864 degrees Fahrenheit (462 degrees Celsius).
As DAVINCI flies past Venus several times, it will use two instruments to study clouds and map the highlands from orbit. Then it will drop a descent probe carrying five instruments to the surface.
The descent will take about an hour and a heat shield will be used to protect the probe until it is about 67 kilometers above the surface. Then it will drop the shield to sample and analyze atmospheric gases. The descent probe will also capture hundreds of images once it clears Venus’ clouds 100,000 feet (30,500 meters) above the surface.
“The probe will land in the Alpha Regio Mountains but is not required to operate once it lands, as all required scientific data will be taken before reaching the surface,” said Stephanie Getty, Goddard’s deputy principal investigator. , in a statement. “If we survive touchdown at around 25 miles per hour (11 meters/second), we could have up to 17-18 minutes of surface operations under ideal conditions.”