NASA set to take the plunge into Venus’ hellish landscape in 2029


NASA has set a launch date for its exploration of Venus’ hellish landscape.

In June 2029, the space agency’s DAVINCI Mission will launch, with the goal of plunging through the harsh layers of atmosphere to the planet’s surface by the end of 2031.

DAVINCI — which stands for Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry, and Imaging — will be the first mission to study Venus using both spacecraft flybys and a descent probe.

NASA scientists and engineers revealed new details about the mission in a paper recently published in The Planetary Science Journal. 

Scientists hope to learn more about Venus’ evolution from a “possibly once-habitable planet” to a “hot terrestrial exoplanet.”

“This ensemble of chemistry, environmental, and descent imaging data will paint a picture of the layered Venus atmosphere and how it interacts with the surface in the mountains of Alpha Regio, which is twice the size of Texas,” Jim Garvin, lead author of the paper and DAVINCI principal investigator from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, said in a news release.

“These measurements will allow us to evaluate historical aspects of the atmosphere as well as detect special rock types at the surface such as granites while also looking for tell-tale landscape features that could tell us about erosion or other formational processes.”

DAVINCI deep atmosphere probe (NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center)

How will they get these measurements? By using the DAVINCI deep atmosphere probe. According to NASA, this spacecraft is a flying analytical chemistry lab that will measure key aspects of Venus’ atmosphere-climate system. It will also snap the first images of the mountainous terrain of Venus while mapping their rock composition.

And last, but certainly not least, the mission will be able to grab measurements of undiscovered gases, which will hopefully reveal the history of water on the planet, either as oceans or steam.

The mission’s carrier, relay, and imaging spacecraft (CRIS) has technology that will study the planet’s clouds and map its highland areas during flybys.

NASA says it’ll take two years to get the probe into position for entry into Venus’ atmosphere.

“The probe will touch down in the Alpha Regio mountains but is not required to operate once it lands, as all of the required science data will be taken before reaching the surface.” Stephanie Getty, deputy principal investigator from Goddard, said in a statement.

“If we survive the touchdown at about 25 miles per hour (12 metres/second), we could have up to 17-18 minutes of operations on the surface under ideal conditions.”

DAVINCI is set to enter the Venusian atmosphere in June 2031.

Maybe we’ll get a high-resolution look at the surface of Venus-like we did of Mars thanks to the Curiosity rover.