Story at a glance

  • Two projects will send technology to Venus to study its environment.
  • Each will be allocated around $500 million.
  • Both are set to launch between 2028 and 2030.

NASA announced it will conduct two new missions to the planet Venus, a long-studied interstellar neighbor of Earth’s, in a bid to learn more about how its environment developed.

Both missions were developed from a pool of four potential missions and selected based on their “potential scientific value” and design plan feasibility.

Called DAVINCI+ (Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry, and Imaging) and VERITAS (Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography, and Spectroscopy), each will receive about $500 million for development. Both are expected to launch around the 2028-2030 timeframe. 

“We’re revving up our planetary science program with intense exploration of a world that NASA hasn’t visited in over 30 years,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s associate administrator for science. “Using cutting-edge technologies that NASA has developed and refined over many years of missions and technology programs, we’re ushering in a new decade of Venus to understand how an Earth-like planet can become a hothouse. Our goals are profound. It is not just understanding the evolution of planets and habitability in our own solar system, but extending beyond these boundaries to exoplanets, an exciting and emerging area of research for NASA.”

DAVINCI+ will work to measure the composition of Venus’s atmosphere to understand how similar it may or may not be to Earth. A descent sphere will be lowered into the planet’s atmosphere to measure the presence of noble gases and other elements.

It will be the first U.S.-led mission to Venus since 1978.

VERITAS will alternatively focus on Venus’s surface to better track its geological history and why it developed so differently from Earth despite sharing similar characteristics. 

Researchers working on VERITAS will create 3D maps of Venus’s topography to gauge if volcanic activity and other tectonics are still active on Venus. 

“It is astounding how little we know about Venus, but the combined results of these missions will tell us about the planet from the clouds in its sky through the volcanoes on its surface all the way down to its very core,” said Tom Wagner, NASA’s Discovery Program scientist. “It will be as if we have rediscovered the planet.”

Published on Jun 03, 2021