March 30, 2023

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NASA launches a spacecraft into the infernal atmosphere of Venus

NASA launches a spacecraft into the infernal atmosphere of Venus

The flying lab will study the composition of Venus’s atmosphere while also taking some hopefully more revealing images.

A year ago, NASA made an excited announcement. The US space agency plans to To visit our “evil twin sister” Venus by the end of this decade† In the meantime, the mission is getting more and more materialized. And in a new study, NASA has revealed more details about this exciting and daring upcoming flight, which could forever change our view of the still-mysterious planet.

Unlivable sister
Venus is often described as Earth’s unlivable twin sister. But at the same time, we know very little about it, so it is still a real mystery to us. Venus is similar to Earth in many ways. The planet – slightly closer to the Sun – is about the same size and has a similar structure, mass, and density. But the similarities largely end there. Venus is suffering from a dangerous global warming that has spiraled out of control. The thick atmosphere traps all the heat, causing surface temperatures to reach 465°C. In addition, the planet is surrounded by a layer of clouds that is dominated by corrosive sulfuric acid. However, it is believed that it was not always this way. Many scientists believe that Venus was in principle more distant from Earth and even water. If they’re right, the big question is what caused the planet to move in such a different direction at one point and look so different from Earth today.

The mission was named DAVINCI by NASA, which means Exploring Venus’s Deep Atmosphere for Noble Gases, Chemistry and Imaging† With this mission, NASA wants to study the composition of Venus’s atmosphere to understand how it formed and evolved.

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Journey to Venus
The mission is expected to begin in July 2029. Then, after about 6.5 months, DAVINCI will conduct its first flew by Skim past the flower. In the end the probe will be three He flies Complete, where you will collect cloud cover and surface data using different tools. “We hope to paint a picture of the stratigraphic atmosphere and how it then interacts with the surface, particularly the mountains of the Alpha Zone,” said lead researcher Jim Garvin. These measurements allow us to assess historical aspects of the atmosphere and to detect special rocks at the surface, such as granite. And that’s while we’re also looking for landscape features that can tell us whether erosion or other formation processes are happening on Venus. “

It will then take about two years to place the probe, but then it will penetrate the atmosphere above the alpha region.

diving trip
Indeed, because the intent is for the spacecraft to plunge into the infernal atmosphere of Venus. DAVINCI is actually a kind of flying laboratory, which will make its way through the planet’s thick atmosphere, taking precise measurements of the noble gases and other elements. The hope is that in this way the undiscovered gases, which are present in small quantities in the atmosphere of Venus, will be shed light on. In addition, scientists hope to find certain water isotopes; The components of water that will contribute to our understanding of the evolution of water on Venus. In this way, the researchers hope to determine if the planet harbored an ocean or may have had a thick, steamy atmosphere.

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gas sample
DAVINCI will then descend more and more to the surface. At an altitude of about 120 kilometers above the surface, the probe will drop its heat shield and “breathe” the local atmosphere of Venus. In this way, the probe will collect similar samples of atmospheric gases as Curiosity’s robotic car on Mars.

This additional landing will also result in the first images of the mountainous heights of Venus. Hundreds of images will be produced once the probe appears under clouds 30,500 meters above the surface. This allows rock formation and surface topography to be mapped at scales not possible from Earth’s orbit.

Landing on Venus
Eventually, DAVINCI will descend into the mountains in the Alpha Zone. “But once it’s down, it doesn’t necessarily have to be working anymore,” said study researcher Stephanie Getty. All required scientific data will be collected before the probe reaches the surface. But if we survive the descent by about 12 m/s, we should have 17 to 18 minutes on the surface under ideal conditions.”

Through this exciting mission, researchers hope to unlock secrets about our evil twin sister and, among other things, discover whether Venus may have been a habitable planet. So the mission will go further than previous missions to Venus. “None of these previous missions were able to measure in great detail the chemistry or the environment that DAVINCI would,” Garvin said. In addition, no previous mission has reached the heights of Venus and no photographs have been taken before. Thus, DAVINCI will be an important step forward, with 21st century capabilities and sensors. “

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