NASA’s Mission to Explore Venus

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NASA’s upcoming mission to Venus, called DAVINCI, is scheduled to launch in 2029. A new paper describes a daring mission that might help shed light on the scorching hot planet’s mysterious past and possible potential for hosting life.

According to a paper released in The Planetary Science Journal, after it arrives at the second planet from the Sun, the probe will extend to Venus’ atmosphere, ingesting its gases for around one hour before landing on its surface. DAVINCI is built to function like a flying chemistry lab that will analyze Venus’ atmosphere, pressure, temperatures, and wind speeds and take snapshots as it makes its way through the planet’s atmosphere.

Significance of the mission

DAVINCI, short for Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry, and Imaging, is one of three missions in the pipeline for Venus. It’s a mission that will bring great excitement to Venus nerds and is long overdue. The last NASA mission to Venus, the Magellan spacecraft, arrived on the planet in 1989 and discontinued its science operations five years later. Since 1994, NASA hasn’t sent out any dedicated missions to Venus, although the planet is incredibly hot. 

Venus, the planet named in honor of the goddess of love, resembles Earth in many ways. It has a similar size, mass, and density. These similarities make studying Venus helpful in understanding how Earth works today. Now, Venus is like a hellish ball of lava with temperatures that shoot up to 880 degrees Fahrenheit i.e. 471 degrees Celsius, with a thick atmosphere made mostly of carbon dioxide. 

DAVINCI’s goal

In an email, Paul Byrne, associate professor of Earth and Planetary Science at Washington University in St. Louis, who was not part of the paper, stated, “Venus’s atmosphere holds the chemical clues to understanding a whole host of aspects of that planet, including what its starting composition was and how its climate has evolved through time… The DAVINCI team, in particular, is hoping to establish whether Venus really did have oceans of liquid water in its past, and if so, when, and why, those oceans were lost.”

DAVINCI will travel approximately 38 million miles (61 million kilometers) to Venus to accomplish this. The spacecraft will first conduct a couple of flybys of the planet. It will perform the first one 6.5 months after launch. During these flybys, the spacecraft will evaluate Venus’s clouds and calculate the amount of ultraviolet radiation that the planet’s day side absorbs. The mission will also measure heat emissions from Venus’ night side. The planet rotates slowly and is, therefore, not tidally locked.

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