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NASA to launch two new Venus missions

John Culatto
June 3, 2021

NASA is launching two new missions to Venus at the end of the decade to find out why the planet became "an inferno-like world." The missions will take place from 2028 to 2030.

A NASA image of the planet Venus
Despite being Earth's closest neighbor, Venus largely remains a mystery for scientistsImage: NASA/AP/dpa/picture alliance

US space agency NASA announced plans on Wednesday for two new missions to Venus, the first in decades to explore Earth's "hothouse" neighbor.

NASA's Discovery program has granted a $500 million (€410 million) budget for the two missions, which will take place between 2028 and 2030.

The last US-led mission to Venus was carried out in 1978.

The announcement comes after the space agency's successful mission to Mars  which saw NASA land and launch its Perseverance rover and Ingenuity helicopter.

Why does NASA want to go to Venus?

"These two sister missions both aim to understand how Venus became an inferno-like world, capable of melting lead at the surface," said Bill Nelson, NASA's new administrator.

"They will offer the entire science community the chance to investigate a planet we haven't been to in more than 30 years."

Although the mission is led by NASA, the German Aerospace Center (DLR) will be supplying the infrared mapper.

The Italian Space Agency and French Centre National d′Etudes Spatiales will provide the radar and other equipment for the mission.

"It is astounding how little we know about Venus, but the combined results of these missions will tell us about the planet from the clouds in its sky through the volcanoes on its surface all the way down to its very core," said Tom Wagner, NASA's Discovery Program scientist.

"It will be as if we have rediscovered the planet," he added.

What are the goals of the two missions?

The DAVINCI+ (Deep Atmosphere Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry and Imaging) will try to find out the origins of Venus′ carbon dioxide atmosphere.

A probe will plunge into the thick atmosphere full of clouds of sulfuric acid to find out if the planet ever had an ocean.

DAVINCI+ will measure the planet's elements to try to find out the causes of its intense greenhouse gases.

It will send the first high resolution images of the planet's "terrerae" land features that could help provide groundbreaking information to scientists of how the planet was formed.

The second mission dubbed VERITAS (Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography, and Spectroscopy) will seek to map the planet's rocky surface.

In doing so, scientists hope to establish a geologic history of the planet and understand how it developed differently from Earth. By mapping infrared emissions, researchers will be able to establish what type of rock lies beneath the planet's thick atmosphere.

Venus is often called Earth's sister-planet — due to its similar size and composition. NASA believes it may have been "the first habitable world in the solar system" at one point — but it's now the hottest, despite not being the closest to the sun.