By KIMBERLY MERFERT
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (mocsnews.com) – Over three decades after NASA sent the spacecraft Magellan into Venus’s orbit in 1989, NASA is returning to hot, humid Venus, Earth’s closest, most ignored neighbor in the solar system.
During his first address to NASA employees on Wednesday, Bill Nelson, the space agency’s new administrator, announced the ideal creation of two new robotic missions to the dense, gaseous atmosphere of Venus.
The first mission, labeled as “DaVinci Plus,” will evaluate the surface of Venus’s planet in order to determine prehistoric habitat—whether the most poisonous planet in the solar system had once been habitable and contained a body of water of some sort.
“Veritas,” NASA’s second mission, will create a diagram of the rocky terrain in order to discover its geologic history.
“These two sister missions,” said Nelson, “both aim to understand how Venus became an inferno-like world capable of melting lead at the surface.”
This project will be the first Venusian mission led by the United States since 1978.
Thomas Wagner, NASA’s top science official, called it “a new decade for Venus,” while Tom Wagner, a scientist working at NASA, said these newest explorations will provide fresh perspective on Venus’s atmosphere, which is almost entirely made up of carbon dioxide.
Beating out Jupiter’s moon Io and Neptune’s moon Triton, each mission will launch sometime around 2028 to 2030 and will receive $500 million for development under NASA’s Discovery program.
Prior to recent plans, the United States had not sent a spacecraft to Venus since Mariner 2 executed a successful flyby in 1962 and Magellan was sent into Venus’s orbit in 1989.
“It is astounding how little we know about Venus,” said Wagner. “It will be as if we have rediscovered the planet.”
The most recent exploration of Venus came in 2006, when the European Space Agency launched a spacecraft around the planet.