Fascinating road to hell: the US is about to send two missions to Venus by 2030

The neighbor of our Earth, Venus, has been attracting the eyes of earthlings for many centuries. Ordinary people just admire the “star”, while scientists are trying to study Venus. It was previously believed that since the planet is similar in many respects to the Earth, then there is life. I remember that I also read Soviet science fiction, the authors of which inhabited the planet either with the likeness of terrestrial dinosaurs, telling that Venus goes through the early stages of the formation of life, or as intelligent inhabitants.

Most of all, however, I remember the short story by Ray Bradbury “All Summer in One Day.” It showed the complex life of the planet’s colonists, who see the Sun for two hours every seven years. It rains the rest of the time. If anyone has not read it, be sure to check it out, the story is short, but very emotional. Be that as it may, in the second half of the 20th century, we learned that Venus is a red-hot hell, not a paradise where it constantly rains and rages with life. And two new missions are going to be sent to this hell.

What are the missions and who organizes them

The first mission is called Davinci +, the second is Veritas. Organizer – NASA. The head of the space agency said that both aim to study the features of the development of Venus. Experts want to understand how and why the planet has evolved along its current path, reaching a stage where puddles of molten lead may well exist on the surface, and sulfuric acid rains in the atmosphere.

Interest in the planet has not faded for many years, but, of course, interest alone is not enough – money is needed for research. And now NASA has allocated funds from the budget for two projects.

DAVINCI + (Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry, and Imaging). Within its framework, NASA is sending a device to Venus that will study the atmosphere of the “morning star”. Scientific instruments on board the station will measure the concentration of various gases and other chemical elements and their compounds.

In addition, the device will be equipped with cameras that will be able to send high-resolution photographs to Earth for the first time in history. Tessera will be photographed – elements of the planet’s relief, which are areas raised above the surface. The device will first study the upper atmosphere, and then begin to search for traces of recent volcanic activity near the surface. The module will descend to the surface for about an hour, studying everything that surrounds it as it descends. It will be carried by an interplanetary station, whose task is to deliver the module to Venus and release it into the atmosphere upon arrival in the planet’s orbit. After that, the station will remain in orbit and will study the geological structure of the planet.

An ultraviolet spectrometer will also be installed on board DAVINCI +, which will allow a detailed study of the atmosphere of Venus and its features.

The mission was developed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. The head is the head of the scientific department of the Center, whose name is James Garvin.

Scientists hope the mission will reveal much more about Venus’s atmosphere as well as its surface. As for the latter, experts are still operating with data from 30 years ago. The geological activity of Venus remains questionable.

But the most interesting thing is the presence of phosphine in the planet’s atmosphere, in the upper layer. Experts believe that the most likely scenario for this compound to enter the atmosphere is living organisms. Of course, other paths are not excluded, but I would like to believe that there is still life on Venus, even if it hovers in the clouds.

VERITAS (Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography, and Spectroscopy). Its task is to map the surface of the planet (as far as possible in such a dense atmosphere and cloudiness). The system will be equipped with radar, which will help to break through to the surface. The device will be in the orbit of Venus. By the way, one of its tasks is to search for sources of infrared radiation, which gives scientists the opportunity to search for active volcanoes and tectonic plates. Scientists hope that they will be able to find analogues of ocean ridges and find other interesting details of the surface of Venus.

VERITAS will be equipped with an atomic clock that will help in the implementation of radio observations and maneuvers.

The program was prepared by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. It is headed by the planetary scientist of the laboratory, Suzanne Smrekar.

Huge plans

The last spacecraft to study Venus was NASA’s Malegal interplanetary station. She carried out detailed radar mapping of Venus from its orbit. The device was launched in 1989, and it worked until 1994.

In 1990, Magellan entered an elongated polar orbit around Venus, with a minimum altitude of 295 km and a maximum altitude of 8,500 km. The circulation period was 195 minutes. For two years, the device managed to map about 98% of the planet’s surface. There are also stereo images, but only for a fifth of the surface.

As it turned out, there are not so many craters on Venus, but there are various formations of volcanic origin, including lava plains and other objects. At the same time, the surface of Venus is only 700 million years old in most cases, which is very small by geological standards.

“Magellan” also studied the gravitational field of the planet, which made it possible to understand the features of Venus. Beginning in 1994, the orbit of the spacecraft began to be lowered in order to be able to study the upper atmosphere. On October 12, 1994, the device dropped even more and contact with it was lost – this is not a catastrophe, but a planned experiment.

After that, NASA did not deal with Venus, the planet became a kind of “cut off slice”. The budget was not allocated, respectively, no one took any steps towards the development of missions. Everything changed a few years ago – NASA announced a competition to develop and select the most interesting missions to Earth’s neighbor. Unsurprisingly, one of the programs selected by the experts aims to investigate the presence of phosphine and the possible detection of life.

The missions are slated to launch in 2028 and 2030, so the wait is relatively short.

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