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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.

Updated 12 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Supreme Court rejects Trump's attempt to shield documents from Jan. 6 committee

Photo: Melissa Sue Gerrits/Getty Images

The Supreme Court rejected on Wednesday night a bid by former President Trump to block the release of documents and records from his administration to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.

Why it matters: Trump asked the Supreme Court to step in and block the release of the documents last month after a panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit unanimously denied his attempt to prevent the committee from obtaining the materials.

Senate Republicans block voting rights bill

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, walks to the Senate floor at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 18, 2022. Photo: Eric Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Senate Republicans blocked Democrats' voting rights legislation from coming to a final vote on Wednesday in what was largely viewed as a doomed effort from the start.

Why it matters: The failed vote underscores the Democratic Party's current uphill battle to pass sweeping legislation in a 50-50 Senate.