NASA is planning two missions to Venus to study the atmosphere and surface


After over 30 years, NASA is returning to Venus. The US space agency has announced two new missions to the neighboring planet near the Sun. While the Davinci + mission will investigate the extremely dense atmosphere, the Veritas mission will cover the surface of Venus. Both missions are intended to help clarify the different development of Earth and Venus. NASA plans to start the two missions between 2028 and 2030.

The Davinci + mission (Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry, and Imaging) aims to penetrate the Venus atmosphere and investigate its composition. This is to clarify how this came about and how it developed. A probe lowered into the extremely dense atmosphere is supposed to measure noble gases in order to determine differences to the earth’s atmosphere.

After all, there is an atmospheric pressure there like on earth at a depth of 900 meters. The surface is about 465 degrees Celsius hot. This cannot be explained by the closer proximity to the sun alone. Especially since the atmosphere is so dense and filters ultraviolet radiation in such a way that it absorbs half of the solar energy.

The dynamics of the Venusian atmosphere still raise many questions. Among other things, it is unclear why the atmosphere rotates about 60 times as fast as the planet itself (super rotation). In order to better understand climatic events, it is necessary to examine the interactions between the atmosphere, the surface and the interior of the planet.

Davinci + is to take the first high-resolution images of the “Tesserae” characteristic of Venus, named after the Russian word for roof tiles: uneven, rugged areas that cover around ten percent of the surface, mostly in higher regions. They indicate a long sequence of tectonic deformations. Despite the diversity of its volcanic structures, no volcanic activity has yet been observed on Venus.

The second Venus mission, Veritas (Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography, and Spectroscopy) is to map the surface of the neighboring planet in order to understand the geological development. Veritas is to use radar to measure Venus from orbit in order to record surface elevations of the planet and to create a 3D reconstruction of the topography. This is to determine whether the shifting tectonic plates and volcanoes are still active.

Veritas will also record infrared emissions from the surface of Venus. The aim is to determine the previously largely unknown types of rock on Venus and whether volcanoes still release water vapor into the atmosphere. The infrared sensor is provided by the German Aerospace Center.

NASA plans to develop the two missions Budget of a maximum of 500 million US dollars each. The costs for the start and the transport to Venus are not included. NASA provides 2028 to 2030 as the time window for both missions. The last NASA flight to Venus started in 1989 with the Magellan space probe, which explored the neighboring planet from orbit until 1994 and allowed a look under the hulls of Venus.

Compared to the Mars missions, Venus is neglected by NASA. To Details Casey Dreiers the Planetary Society NASA has invested $ 3.7 billion in Venus missions to date, while Mars missions have cost $ 28.5 billion. The Soviet Union was much more interested in Venus.


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