NASA’s DAVINCI mission to Venus is scheduled to launch in 2029. In a new paper from the Planetary Science Journal, details are shared of the upcoming mission which aims to shed new light on the potential habitable past for the planet.
Venus is the second planet from the Sun, and the probe set to land there will act as a flying chemistry lab to analyze the atmosphere of the planet. DAVINCI will have to travel through one hour of gases in Venus’ atmosphere before actually landing, during which time it will analyze atmospheric temperatures, pressure and wind speed while taking photos as well.
DAVINCI is a part of three upcoming missions planned for Venus. NASA’s last mission to the scorching hot planet took place in 1989 when Magellan landed, however, all scientific operations of the mission were completed in 1994.
Since that moment, NASA hasn’t sent out any missions to study Venus. Scientists are now hoping to gain a greater understanding of Earth through what they learn on Venus, as it’s believed the two planets were created in similar ways.
Earth and Venus are also the same size, mass, and density, although Venus normally reaches temperatures that can reach up to 880 degrees Fahrenheit (471 degrees Celsius). Venus has a very thick, carbon-dioxide rich atmosphere that makes it easy for the planet to trap heat the same way greenhouse gases are trapped on Earth.
“Venus’s atmosphere holds the chemical clues to understanding a whole host of aspects of that planet, including what its starting composition was and how its climate has evolved through time,” Paul Byrne, associate professor of Earth and Planetary Science at Washington University in St. Louis, who was not involved in the paper, wrote.
“The DAVINCI team in particular is hoping to establish whether Venus really did have oceans of liquid water in its past, and if so when, and why, those oceans were lost.”
DAVINCI will travel around 38 million miles to Venus, initially performing two flybys of the planet to analyze clouds and measure the amount of ultraviolet radiation absorbed on the planet’s day side, and the amount of heat being emitted from its night side.
The paper explained that two years after DAVINCI is launched, the DAVINCI probe will descend through Venus’s atmosphere to sample the various gases in the atmosphere.
“It turns out that the Venus atmosphere is relatively clement up around 55 km [35 miles], but quickly starts to get hotter and far denser as you approach the surface. To say nothing of the sulfuric acid clouds, although thankfully they tend to dissipate once you’ve fallen to an altitude of around 47 km [29 miles],” Bryce said.
Once the probe makes it to the surface of Venus, it will attempt to take hundreds of images, which could provide scientists with unprecedented views never seen from the planet before.
“The DAVINCI probe will have a small inlet on the exterior of the pressure vessel (basically a big, metal sphere) through which samples of the atmosphere at different altitudes will be drawn into the spacecraft (or, really, pushed in as the pressure outside the probe starts to dramatically increase over the interior pressure),” Byrne said.
“The DAVINCI probe will look to answer this question by measuring the ratios of various gases in the atmosphere. Those measurements, in turn, will help scientists understand which of their climate and interior evolution models are correct, and thus what the likely planetary history of Venus is—including whether it really was ever habitable,” Byrne said.
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at email@example.com.