For many years, Mars has been getting all the rage at NASA. The space agency sent there a series of rovers, a car-shaped vehicle with a Persians that was attached to a small helicopter earlier this year. The space agency is also focused on the moon and has promised to return astronauts in the coming years for the first time since 1972.
But on Wednesday, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said the space agency would keep an eye on a world that has not received much attention for decades: the burning secret of the planet that Venus is the closest planet to Earth. In an address at NASA headquarters, Nelson said the agency would not send two missions there, scientists would send two missions there in a long-delayed effort.
NASA has not sent research to Venus for more than a decade, despite its relative proximity and the study of events that have helped scientists better understand the Earth, despite the fact that Venus has not been assembled. In any case, despite being “hot, hellish and unforgiving” in the words of Venus NASA, it has “many features as ours.”
Nelson said the missions would study “how Venus became an inferno-like world capable of melting lead at the surface. … We hope these missions will further our understanding of how Earth evolved and why it’s habitable when others in our solar system are not.”
To investigate how Venus evolved, NASA said it was financing two missions. One, DAVINCI Plus Dub, sends a probe into the planet’s dense atmosphere to understand why it is, as NASA puts it, “a hothouse fleeing the Earth.” The name of the mission is an acronym for Noble Gas, Chemistry and Imaging Plus in-depth atmospheric Venus research.
The mission also studied whether the planet ever had an ocean and took high-resolution images of the surface to see if it was made up of plates that would move as high as Earth’s makeup.
The second mission is called VERITAS and with Weeds’ topography radar maps its altitude and maps to study infrared emission map rock types. VERITAS means Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography, and Spectroscopy.
“It’s amazing how little we know about Venus, but the combined results of these missions tell us about the planet from the clouds in the sky to its surface volcanoes,” said Tom Wagner, a space agency scientist who was involved in choosing the missions. “That’s when we found the planet.”
The Venus missions were chosen from among a group of finalists that included missions exploring Jupiter’s moon, Io. Another way to study Triton on an active snow moon of Neptune.
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But Nelson described Venus as “an emerging area of research for NASA.” NASA said it would award a contract worth about $500 million for each Venus mission, and that they would start in the 2028-30 time period. Lockheed Martin will design, build and operate both spacecraft, the company said.
The Soviet Union took a keen interest in Venus to send more than 30 spacecraft to Greece between 1961 and 1985, according to a timeline posted on the NASA website. Which sent probes into the Venusian atmosphere in 1978, last dispatched a spacecraft to Venus in 1989. That craft, Magellan, orbited the planet for four years and mapped it before sinking and burning in the atmosphere.