Jun 2, 2021 - Science

NASA is going back to Venus

A view of the planet Venus shining in yellow light
Venus in full view. Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA has chosen two new missions to unlock the mysteries of Earth's evil twin: Venus.

Why it matters: This marks the first time the space agency will send dedicated missions to the cloudy planet in more than 30 years.

What's happening: The agency announced Wednesday it plans to launch both the DAVINCI+ and VERITAS missions to Venus between 2028 and 2030.

  • DAVINCI+ is designed to learn about the composition of the planet's thick atmosphere to assess how it has changed over time and whether the world once played host to oceans.
  • The spacecraft will also drop a probe into the planet's atmosphere to collect data about why the world's runaway greenhouse effect took off.
  • VERITAS, on the other hand, is expected to use a special kind of radar imager to peer through the planet’s clouds and map Venus’ surface to confirm whether the planet has active plate tectonics or volcanism.

What they're saying: "This is, to my knowledge, an unprecedented decision by NASA: to pick two missions to a single world, designed to take complementary measurements to understand the past climate and present activity of the Earth-size world next door... is absolutely remarkable," planetary scientist Paul Byrne told Axios via Twitter. "We are going to learn things we haven't even thought of yet."

  • "We hope these missions will further our understanding of how Earth evolved, and why it's currently habitable and others and our solar system are not," NASA administrator Bill Nelson said during a press briefing.
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