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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.

Go deeper

Sep 7, 2021 - World

Christian leaders appeal for action on climate change

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew (from left), Pope Francis and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Portal Welby are seated in the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi, Italy, in September 2016. Photo: Vatican Pool/Getty Images

The pope, ecumenical patriarch and archbishop of Canterbury appealed to world leaders to address the "current climate crisis" to preserve the planet for future generations in an unprecedented joint statement on Tuesday.

Why it matters: The call to action comes ahead of the United Nations climate talks scheduled for November in Glasgow, Scotland. Pope Francis is expected to attend the talks, according to John Kerry, the U.S. special presidential envoy for climate change.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
2 mins ago - Science

A new NASA astronaut corps for the next era in space

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

NASA's next crewed missions to the Moon will need a larger, differently-trained and multi-skilled astronaut corps to deliver on the agency's ambitions.

Why it matters: NASA has plans to fly astronauts to the surface of the Moon in 2025 and ultimately establish a long-term presence there. That goal requires a robust corps with new, specialized training in what it takes to live and work on the Moon — and NASA needs to start planning now.

China builds its own movie empire

Expand chart
Data: Gower Street citing Comscore; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

China blocked all four of Disney's Marvel movies from being released in its theaters last year, a grim sign for U.S. film giants being squeezed out of the world's fastest-growing box office.

Why it matters: The Chinese Communist Party is using domestic films as a key conduit for mass messaging aimed at achieving political goals, leaving little room for foreign views.