NASA Selects Two New Missions to Venus | Planetary Science, Space Exploration

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NASA has selected two new Discovery Program missions — the Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry, and Imaging (DAVINCI+) and the Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography, and Spectroscopy (VERITAS) — to the planet Venus. The missions aim to understand how the atmosphere of Venus formed, evolved, determine whether the planet ever had an ocean, and understand why Venus developed so differently than the Earth. NASA is awarding approximately $500 million per mission for development. Each is expected to launch in the 2028-2030 timeframe.

This artists concept shows NASAs VERITAS spacecraft using its radar to produce high-resolution maps of Venus topographic and geologic features. Image credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech.

Were revving up our planetary science program with intense exploration of a world that NASA hasnt visited in over 30 years, said Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen, NASAs associate administrator for science.

Using cutting-edge technologies that NASA has developed and refined over many years of missions and technology programs, were ushering in a new decade of Venus to understand how an Earth-like planet can become a hothouse.

The DAVINCI+ mission will measure the composition of Venus atmosphere to understand how it formed and evolved, as well as determine whether the planet ever had an ocean.

The mission consists of a descent sphere that will plunge through the planets thick atmosphere, making precise measurements of noble gases and other elements to understand why Venus atmosphere is a runaway hothouse compared the Earths.

In addition, it will return the first high resolution pictures of the unique geological features on Venus known as tesserae.

The VERITAS mission will map Venus surface to determine the planets geologic history and understand why it developed so differently than Earth.

Orbiting Venus with a synthetic aperture radar, it will chart surface elevations over nearly the entire planet to create 3D reconstructions of topography and confirm whether processes such as plate tectonics and volcanism are still active on Venus.

VERITAS also will map infrared emissions from Venus surface to map its rock type, which is largely unknown, and determine whether active volcanoes are releasing water vapor into the atmosphere.

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 Dr. Tom Wagner, a scientist with NASAs Discovery Program.

It will be as if we have rediscovered the planet.

NASAs DAVINCI+ mission will probe the atmosphere of Venus. Image credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech.

NASAs DAVINCI+ mission will probe the atmosphere of Venus. Image credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech.

In addition to the two missions, NASA selected a pair of technology demonstrations to fly along with them.

DAVINCI+ will host the Compact Ultraviolet to Visible Imaging Spectrometer (CUVIS).

It will make high resolution measurements of ultraviolet light using a new instrument based on freeform optics.

These observations will be used to determine the nature of the unknown ultraviolet absorber in Venus atmosphere that absorbs up to half the incoming solar energy.

VERITAS will host the Deep Space Atomic Clock-2. The ultra-precise clock signal generated with this technology will ultimately help enable autonomous spacecraft maneuvers and enhance radio science observations.

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This article is based on text provided by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

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