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NASA’s DAVINCI 2029 mission to explore the atmosphere of Venus

Illustration of NASA's DAVINCI Venus spacecraft

NASA’s DAVINCI mission to Venus is scheduled to launch in 2029. New Journey paper Details of this upcoming trip, A daring mission could shed new light on the planet’s hot, scorching, mysterious and potentially habitable past.

Upon reaching the second planet from the sun, the probe plunges into the atmosphere of Venus, swallowing its gases for about an hour before landing on the planet’s surface, according to paper Published in the Journal of Planetary Science. Da Vinci Designed to serve as an aviation chemistry laboratory, it will use its built-in instruments to analyze Venus’s atmosphere, temperatures, pressures, and wind speeds, while snapping some pictures of its journey through planetary hell.

An acronym for Venus Deep Atmosphere Investigation in Noble Gases, Chemistry and Imaging, DAVINCI is one of the Three upcoming missions planned to Venus, Much to the delight of flower geeks like me. And honestly, it’s been a long time. NASA’s last mission to Venus, Magellan, arrived at the planet in 1989 and concluded scientific operations in 1994. Since then, NASA has not sent a specialized mission to Venus, even though the planet is extremely hot — literally and figuratively.

Why would NASA send a mission to Venus?

Understanding Venus helps scientists get a better view of our planet. Venus and Earth may have started similarly; The two planets share the same size, mass, and density. But today, Venus enjoys temperatures of up to 880 degrees Fahrenheit (471 degrees Celsius), with a dense atmosphere rich in carbon dioxide that traps heat in the same way that greenhouse gases do on Earth. It also features an exotic volcanic landscape. Maybe something happened during The early history of Venus caused the development of such harsh and inhospitable conditions, And it ends up completely different from Earth.

“The atmosphere of Venus contains the chemical clues to understand the full range of aspects of this planet, including the formation of its beginnings and how its climate has evolved over time,” said Paul Byrne, associate professor of Earth and planetary sciences at the University of Washington in St. Lewis, who was not involved with the newspaper, wrote in an email. “The DAVINCI team, in particular, hopes to determine if Venus did indeed have liquid water oceans in the past, and if so, when and why those oceans were lost.”

How will da Vinci measure the atmosphere of Venus?

To do this, da Vinci will travel about 61 million kilometers to Venus. The spacecraft will first perform two flybys of the planet, the first of which will take place 6.5 months after launch. During these flights, the spacecraft will analyze the clouds of Venus and measure the amount of ultraviolet radiation absorbed by the day side of the planet, as well as the amount of heat emitted by the night side of Venus (Venus is not gradually locked, but has a very slow rate of rotation).

Almost two years after launch, the DAVINCI probe, known as the Descent Sphere, will descend through Venus’s atmosphere and sample various gases as it makes its way to the surface. The 3-foot (1 meter long) probe would require an hour to make its way through, experiencing higher temperatures and pressures as it went down.

“It turns out that the atmosphere of Venus is relatively high, about 55 km [35 miles]”But it quickly starts to get hotter and denser the closer you get to the surface,” Byrne said. “Not to mention clouds of sulfuric acid, although fortunately they tend to dissipate when they descend to an altitude of about 47 km [29 miles]. “

The Descent Sphere is equipped with five instruments designed to measure and analyze the chemistry and environment of Venus’s atmosphere; These tools are expected to paint a better and deeper picture of the multi-layered atmosphere. The probe will begin its interaction with the upper atmosphere of Venus when it reaches a height of 120 kilometers and will eject its heat shield when it is 67 kilometers from Earth. Once it sinks under the thick cloud layer of Venus, about 30,500 meters above the surface, the probe will attempt to take hundreds of images. Clouds coming from Venus blanketed the planet, blanketing its surface, so these images are set up to offer some unprecedented views.

In addition to photographing the planet, the landing ball will also breathe some of its atmosphere. “The DAVINCI spacecraft will have a small inlet on the outside of the pressure vessel (basically a large metal ball) through which samples of the atmosphere at various altitudes are drawn into the spacecraft (or actually pushed inward as pressure outside the probe begins to increase). , largely on internal pressure), Byrne said.

Upon landing, the probe should not move faster than about 40 km/h (25 mph). If the probe survives re-entry into the atmosphere, the probe will hopefully land in the Alpha Reggio Mountains, which are roughly the size of Texas, according to the researchers behind the new paper. Under ideal conditions, the spacecraft will operate for 17 to 18 minutes once it touches down, but it’s not really necessary to work on Venus because all the precious data has already been collected during its atmospheric dive.

Illustration of the DAVINCI descent field falling into the atmosphere of Venus

Illustration of the DAVINCI descent field falling into the atmosphere of Venus
screen printing: NASA

Is the flower habitable?

Although Venus today is not an ideal place for life, scientists want to know if the planet is habitable.

In September 2020, a group of scientists claimed that Venus may have Signs of life in your clouds BBased on the discovery of what phosphine might be in the atmosphere of Venus. Phosphine is a vital gas on Earth. However, the results were largely met with skepticism. But whether or not Venus is habitable depends on whether the planet has hosted liquid watery oceans or has a thick, smoky atmosphere.

“The da Vinci spacecraft will seek to answer this question by measuring the proportions of different gases in the atmosphere,” Byrne said. “These measurements, in turn, will help scientists understand which of their climate and internal evolution models are correct, and thus what is the likely planetary history of Venus – including whether it was habitable.”

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