Key Takeaways

  1. NASA has chosen Venus as the destination for two new robotic missions to explore the planet’s atmosphere and geological features.
  2. Evidence of “enough water to support abundant life” has been found on Venus, leading to increased interest in studying the planet.
  3. Previous research suggests that Venus may have once had a shallow liquid-water ocean and a habitable surface temperature for up to two billion years.
  4. Scientists believe that Venus underwent a transformation from a habitable world to its current harsh conditions due to the evaporation of its early ocean and the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
  5. The missions, named Davinci+ and Veritas, will provide an opportunity to investigate Venus, a planet that has not been explored in over 30 years.

NASA has made an exciting discovery on Venus, indicating the presence of ample water that could support abundant life. As a result, the space agency has decided to launch two robotic missions, Davinci+ and Veritas, to explore the planet’s atmosphere and geological features.

These missions offer a unique opportunity to investigate Venus, a planet that has not been extensively explored in over three decades. The decision to choose Venus as the destination follows a peer-review process and the recent detection of phosphine gas in the planet’s clouds, which some researchers believe could be a sign of alien life.

Scientists from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) have previously suggested that Venus might have once had a shallow liquid-water ocean and a habitable surface temperature that lasted for billions of years. Using a model similar to those used to study climate change on Earth, the researchers found that ancient Venus was significantly different from its current state.

While Venus was formed from ingredients similar to Earth, it followed a different evolutionary path. NASA’s Pioneer mission in the 1980s provided initial evidence that Venus might have had an ocean, but the intense sunlight caused the water to evaporate, leading to a buildup of carbon dioxide and a runaway greenhouse effect.

The findings indicate that Venus had more dry land than Earth, particularly in the tropics. According to a NASA press release, this type of surface, with sufficient water and land, could have made Venus a habitable planet. The GISS team simulated conditions of an early Venus, including an Earth-like atmosphere, a day as long as Venus’ current day, and a shallow ocean based on data from the Pioneer spacecraft.

Their simulations showed that Venus’ slow spin exposed its dayside to the Sun for extended periods, resulting in rain and the formation of a thick layer of clouds that shielded the surface from excessive solar heating. Consequently, the mean climate temperatures on ancient Venus were actually cooler than Earth’s current temperatures.

The last United States probe to visit Venus was the Magellan orbiter in 1990. However, other spacecraft from Europe and Japan have orbited the planet since then. The upcoming Davinci+ mission will focus on measuring the planet’s atmosphere and determining if Venus ever had an ocean, potentially shedding light on the presence of phosphine gas.

The Veritas mission, on the other hand, will map Venus’ surface and investigate its geological history, aiming to understand why it developed so differently from Earth. These missions hold the promise of unraveling the mysteries of Venus and providing valuable insights into the planet’s past and present conditions.

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