Announced two missions to the "sister" of the Earth: what scientists want to know about Venus

What interesting things have become known about Venus recently?

  • Natural radiation


During a short flight over Venus, NASA's Parker solar probe detected a natural radio signal.

According to the authors, the upper atmosphere of Venuschange significantly during the 11-year solar cycle. This data will help you better understand why Earth and Venus are so different from each other.

On July 11, 2020, the Parker probe made itsthe third flyby past Venus. Each of these flybys aimed to use the gravity of Venus to approach the Sun. Based on the results of the flyby, the scientists concluded that during the last flyby, the Parker spacecraft passed through the ionosphere of Venus.

After analyzing the collected data, scientists were able to estimate the current density of Venus' ionosphere and found that it has dropped significantly since the last previous measurement.

When Glyn Collison from the Space Flight Centernamed Goddard NASA in Greenbelt, Maryland, and his team identified this signal, they realized that the Parker solar probe had penetrated the upper atmosphere of Venus.

Understanding why Venus's ionosphere is thinning near the solar minimum is part of the puzzle of how Venus responds to the Sun.

  • Detection of phosphine

Phosphine (PH3) is a colorless, highly toxic gaswith an unpleasant smell, similar to the smell of rotten fish. It can be found in penguin droppings, in the depths of swamps and marshes, in the intestines of some species of badgers and fish. It is also used as an insect repellent in agriculture.

Phosphine is one of the biomarker gases for the presence oflife. However, scientists do not claim that life exists in the upper layers of the planet's atmosphere, and only say that chemical processes of the reproduction of phosphine, unknown to science, can take place on Venus.

Venus's atmosphere contains many compoundssulfur and practically no water vapor and oxygen, which makes it an extremely extreme place, unsuitable for proteinaceous life forms. However, there are theories according to which extremophile microorganisms could live in the upper layers of the planet's atmosphere and exist through complex chemical reactions.

How was Venus previously explored?

  • Research with optical telescopes

The first observations of Venus with opticaltelescopes were made by Galileo Galilei in 1610. Galileo established that Venus changes phases. On the one hand, this proved that it shines with the reflected light of the Sun (about which there was no clarity in astronomy of the previous period).

On the other hand, the order of the phase change corresponded to the heliocentric system: in Ptolemy's theory, Venus as the “lower” planet was always closer to the Earth than the Sun, and “fullness” was impossible.

  • Research using spacecraft

Photo of the surface of Venus taken by the Venera 13 lander.

Venus was intensively studied by the Soviet andAmerican spacecraft in the 1960s and 1980s. The first apparatus to study Venus was the Soviet Venera 1, launched on February 12, 1961; this attempt was unsuccessful.

After that, the Sovietdevices of the Venera, Vega series, American Mariner, Pioneer-Venera-1, Pioneer-Venera-2. In 1975, the spacecraft Venera-9 and Venera-10 transmitted the first photographs of the surface of Venus to Earth; in 1982, Venera 13 and Venera 14 transmitted color images from the surface of Venus.

However, the conditions on the surface of Venus are such that none of the spacecraft has worked on the planet for more than two hours.

At the present time, interest in Venus exists, andseveral space agencies are developing projects for Venusian spacecraft. For example, Roskosmos is developing the Venera-D program with a landing vehicle, India is developing the Shukrayaan-1 orbiter, NASA is the competing projects DAVINCI + and VERITAS, ESA is the EnVision spacecraft. All these projects are in the early stages of development, and the timing of their implementation has not been determined.

NASA mission Davinci + to Venus

Space mission project to send a landeratmospheric probe to Venus. In February 2020, DAVINCI + became a finalist for Discovery Missions 15 and 16 for NASA's Solar System Exploration.

The mission of DAVINCI + is to explorethe chemical composition of the atmosphere of Venus "to understand how it was formed, evolved and to determine whether there was once an ocean on Venus." The probe, which will descend to the surface of Venus for 63 minutes, will analyze the chemical composition of the planet's atmosphere and study and investigate the characteristics of its surface.

Until 2020, the mission project was simply calledDAVINCI, after which the "+" sign was added to the mission name. It means that in addition to studying the atmosphere, the probe will also receive cameras for photographing the surface.

The lead designer of the mission is James Garvin of the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

On June 2, 2021, NASA selected DAVINCI + and VERITAS as the winners of the Discovery Program.

Mission goal Davinci +

In case of successful implementation of the DAVINCI + missionwill become the first descent vehicle to Venus since 1985 (after the Soviet mission "Vega"). During the mission, it is planned to study how the atmosphere of Venus was formed and evolved, and also to find signs that in the past there was an ocean of water on the surface of Venus.

The descent probe examines air samples at differentaltitudes in search of noble gases (krypton, argon, xenon, neon), as well as other chemical elements and compounds that can help study the past of the planet.

The launch of the probe into space may take place in 2029-2030.

how Davinci + will explore Venus

  • Venus Mass Spectrometer (VMS). The device will provide the first comprehensive studies of noble and trace gases on Venus and will be able to detect new species.
  • Tunable Venus Laser Spectrometer (VTLS).The instrument will provide the first highly sensitive in situ measurements of target trace gases and their associated isotope ratios on Venus. This will help resolve questions about chemical processes in the upper clouds and the near-surface environment.
  • An apparatus for studying the structure of the atmosphere of Venus (VASI). The instrument will provide measurements of the structure and dynamics of Venus's atmosphere during entry and descent, as well as provide context for chemical measurements and allow reconstructing the descent of the probe.

Thermal imager for descent from Venus (VenDI). The instrument will provide high-contrast images of the tessera terrain at the drop-off site.

NASA VERITAS Mission to Venus

Orbital station VERITAS should work onOrbit around Venus for three years, during which time it will create radar and infrared maps of the planet's surface, help develop a three-dimensional topographic model of Venus, which will help to understand the volcanic activity of the planet and learn more about its geological history. The launch of the probe into space is scheduled for 2028.

The purpose of the VERITAS mission

VERITAS will collect data to help scientists answer three basic questions about Venus:

  • How has the planet's geology evolved over time,
  • What geological processes are currently taking place,
  • Whether water was present on the surface or near Venus.

Understanding the geology of Venus presentssignificant scientific interest due to its similarity to Earth. Venus is generally similar in size, age, and composition to those on Earth, but its environment is significantly different and less hospitable to life.

Thus, understanding geological evolutionVenus will help answer questions about the formation of habitable planets. A key step in developing an understanding of this evolution is the study of the modern geology of Venus. The current data can be interpreted as a tendency for volcanic eruptions or volcanism.

In addition, it is currently unknown to what extent surface water was historically present on Venus and what role groundwater plays in modern Venusian geology.

How VERITAS will explore Venus

VERITAS is designed to create a globaltopography and high-resolution imaging of the surface of Venus, as well as for the creation of the first maps of surface deformation. In addition, the mission will study the global composition of the surface, its thermal radiation and gravitational fields. The spacecraft carries two scientific instruments: a Venus Emissivity Map (VEM) and a Venus Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (VISAR).

  • VEM (Venus Emissivity Mapper) is designed formapping the emissivity of a surface using six spectral bands in five atmospheric windows that are visible through clouds. It will be built at the German Aerospace Center (DLR). VEM also has eight atmospheric bands for calibration and detection of near-surface water vapor.
  • VISAR (Venus Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar)is designed to generate global datasets for topography (250 m horizontal by 5 m vertical accuracy) and SAR imaging with 30 m resolution at 15 m target resolution. It will create the first deformation map of the planet's active surface (1.5 cm vertical).

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