UPDATED: June 7, 2021 16:36 IST
Dubbed as Earth’s twin due to similarity in size and location, Venus is a completely different world that remains unexplored. Now two separate probes will investigate this dry and inhospitable planet which has a surface temperature of 470 degrees Celsius.
Nasa had last week approved not one but two missions to Venus to study the scorched landscape of the planet that is covered in clouds of sulfuric acid and a thick atmosphere of carbon dioxide at over 90 times the pressure of Earth. The new missions derive inspiration from theories that Venus may once have been more like Earth, a world with oceans that was potentially habitable for life.
“Venus is hard since every clue is hidden behind the curtain of a massive opaque atmosphere with inhospitable conditions for surface exploration, so we have to be clever and bring our best tools of science to Venus in innovative ways with missions,” James Garvin, principal investigator for DAVINCI+ said in a statement.
Meet DAVINCI+: Earth’s interplanetary spy
Named after Leonardo da Vinci, the Italian polymath of the High Renaissance, who connected engineering, technology, and even art through his work, DAVINCI+ could be the pioneer in exploring the neighbouring planet. Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry, and Imaging Plus (DAVINCI+) will consist of a spacecraft and a probe that will land on the surface of Venus. Upon arrival in Venus orbit, the $500 million spacecraft will track the clouds and map surface composition by measuring heat emission. During its entry and descent into Venus’ atmosphere, it will sample its chemistry as well as the temperature, pressure, and winds, while also taking high-resolution images of Alpha Regio, an ancient highland.
Scheduled to be launched in 2030, the probe will conduct two flybys to study and map the surface composition of the planet for a period of two years. The probe will then enter Venus’ atmosphere during a descent that will last about an hour before landing at Alpha Regio.
DAVINCI+’s tools on Venus
The probe will be designed to carry four instruments that include Venus Mass Spectrometer (VMS) and the Venus Tunable Laser Spectrometer (VTLS) that will conduct the study of surface composition and its atmospheric gases. The two instruments will try to look for evidence of when and why Venus’ climate may have changed so dramatically. The third instrument, Venus Atmospheric Structure Investigation (VASI), will be used to study the temperature, pressure and wind movement of the planet from an altitude of 70 kilometres. Once into the thick Venusian atmosphere, the Venus Descent Imager (VenDI) instrument will capture near-infrared images of the Alpha Regio highlands.
The probe will also have the Venus Imaging System from Orbit for Reconnaissance (VISOR), a set of four cameras that “will provide the first compositional maps of Ishtar Terra, the high latitude continent on the planet,” Nasa said.
Nasa believes that the study of Venus could tell us about climate change, the evolution of habitability, and what happens when a planet loses a long period of surface oceans.