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  • After being ghosted by NASA for about 30 years, Venus is back in the limelight.

  • In June of 2021, NASA announced two bold new missions that will be launched by the end of the decade, DAVINCI+ and VERITAS.

  • Although the planet was a focus for early exploration, temperatures that melt lead and clouds of sulfuric acid earned Venus a reputation of beinghard to work with”.

  • Between 1970 and 1985, a number of landers reached Venus' surface, but none lasted more than about two hours.

  • So that's why NASA pivoted to Mars, where its Viking 1 lander touched down successfully in 1976.

  • These early discoveries made Mars thego-tospot for future missions and landers.

  • Fast forward to 2020 and scientists announced the discovery of phosphine on Venus, a potential sign of life.

  • That turned everything around.

  • Although the findings were heavily controversial, it reignited interest in the forgotten planet.

  • In fact, in June 2021, scientists working with old orbiter data spotted something on Venus that kinda looks like plate tectonics.

  • All the more reason to go figure out what's going on.

  • To find out how a world so similar to ours became an inferno, NASA will go to hell...literally.

  • The two missions, DAVINCI+ and VERITAS, also have scientists re-examining two major theories about Venus' origin.

  • In the first theory, when the planet was less than a billion years old, it was cooked by a warming sun, boiling off any existing water.

  • The water vapor, plus the carbon dioxide from a magma ocean, quickly caused a runaway greenhouse effect, and the hope of a habitable paradise went up in flames.

  • In the second theory, there were two habitable Earth-like planets in the early solar system.

  • Venus still ends up with the runaway greenhouse effect, but not before it enjoyed oceans like Earth's for over 3 billion years.

  • Then, massive volcanic eruptions dumped carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, choking the climate.

  • Temperatures went up, the oceans evaporated, and a once temperate planet became hostile.

  • One of these theories is more accurate, but without more data, we don't know which.

  • But DAVINCI+ and VERITAS can help answer this and other questions.

  • DAVINCI+ is short for the Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble Gases, Chemistry, and Imaging Plus.

  • The tandem spacecraft and probe will do two flybys where it will image Venus from above.

  • On its third flyby, it will release a descent probe.

  • On its hour-long journey down to the surface it will sample the chemistry in the atmosphere, including noble gases like xenon, argon, and helium.

  • Since noble gases don't react with other elements, they can tell us whether the planet once had an ocean and how much of it ended up in the atmosphere.

  • The probe will also measure temperature, pressure, and wind speed.

  • It will descend over Alpha Regio, a complex pattern of valleys and ridges known as a “tessera”.

  • We don't really know what tesserae are, but the probe will snap extremely detailed images of them so we can see if they're related to volcanic activity.

  • Then there's VERITAS, which is short for Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography, and Spectroscopy.

  • The orbiter will have a radar that can peek through the clouds and map out the surface of the planet in high resolution.

  • It will also be equipped with a near-infrared spectrometer to determine the makeup of the surface.

  • These images will replace the relatively low-resolution ones taken by the Magellan orbiter when it visited the planet in the '90s.

  • VERITAS will also take measurements of Venus's gravitational field, revealing the interior structure of the planet.

  • Not only can these missions to Venus tell us more about its origins, but also they can help improve our understanding of exoplanets.

  • To date, NASA has confirmed more than 4000 planets orbiting stars outside our Solar System.

  • Some are located in the habitable zone, where liquid water could exist on the surface.

  • If we learn what caused Venus to go apocalyptic, it may help us identify which exoplanets could be habitable and create a roadmap for future exploration.

  • If the return to Venus has you wondering how well you know your neighbor, check out this video on Why Scientists Are Exploring Earth's Dangerous Twin.

  • If you have any space breakthroughs you think we should cover, let us know in the comments below

  • and as always, thanks for watching Seeker.

After being ghosted by NASA for about 30 years, Venus is back in the limelight.

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