NASA to explore divergent fate of Earth's mysterious twin with Goddard's DAVINCI+

NASA to explore divergent fate of Earth's mysterious twin with Goddard's DAVINCI+

Although Earth and Venus are similar in size and location, they are very different worlds today. While Earth has oceans of water and abundant life, Venus is dry and fiercely inhospitable. Although it’s somewhat closer to the Sun – about 70 percent of Earth’s distance – Venus is much hotter, with temperatures at the surface high enough to melt lead. The scorched landscape is obscured by clouds of sulfuric acid, and it is smothered by a thick atmosphere of mostly carbon dioxide at over 90 times the pressure of Earth’s, which causes the air to behave more like a fluid than a gas near its surface.

However, scientists think that in an earlier time, Venus may have been more like Earth, a world with water oceans that was potentially habitable for life, perhaps for billions of years. They hypothesize something caused a “runaway greenhouse” effect in Venus’ atmosphere, cranking up the temperature and vaporizing its oceans. NASA’s DAVINCI+ mission is set to explore Venus to determine if it was habitable and understand how these similar worlds ended up with such different fates.

“Venus is a ‘Rosetta stone’ for reading the record books of climate change, the evolution of habitability, and what happens when a planet loses a long period of surface oceans,” said James Garvin, principal investigator for DAVINCI+ at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “But Venus is ‘hard’ since every clue is hidden behind the curtain of a massive opaque atmosphere with inhospitable conditions for surface exploration, so we have to be clever and bring our best ‘tools of science’ to Venus in innovative ways with missions like DAVINCI+. That is why we named our mission ‘DAVINCI+’ after Leonardo da Vinci’s inspired and visionary Renaissance thinking that went beyond science to connect to engineering, technology, and even art.”

The science impact of DAVINCI+ will reach even beyond the solar system to Venus-like planets orbiting other stars (exoplanets), which are expected to be common and will represent important targets for NASA’s upcoming James Webb Space Telescope. But these planets may be difficult to interpret, especially if they are enveloped in thick Venus-like clouds.

“Venus is the ‘exoplanet in our backyard’ that can help us understand these distant analog worlds by providing ground truth to improve the computer models we will use to interpret exo-Venus planets,” said Giada Arney, deputy principal investigator for DAVINCI+ at NASA Goddard. “But there is so much about Venus that we still don’t understand, and this is where DAVINCI+ comes in. Excitingly, if Venus was habitable in the past, some exo-Venus planets may be habitable too! So DAVINCI+’s investigation of the evolution of Venus may help us better understand how habitable worlds are distributed elsewhere in the universe, and how habitable planets evolve over time in a general sense.”

The mission, Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry, and Imaging Plus, will consist of a spacecraft and a probe. The spacecraft will track motions of the clouds and map surface composition by measuring heat emission from Venus’ surface that escapes to space through the massive atmosphere.

The probe will descend through the atmosphere, sampling its chemistry as well as the temperature, pressure, and winds. The probe will also take the first high-resolution images of Alpha Regio, an ancient highland twice the size of Texas with rugged mountains, looking for evidence that past crustal water influenced surface materials.

Launch is targeted for FY2030 with two flybys of Venus prior to the probe’s descent. The flybys are the initial phase of the remote-sensing mission to study the atmospheric circulation and map the surface composition. Approximately two years later, the probe will be released to conduct its investigation of the atmosphere during a descent that will last about an hour before landing at Alpha Regio.

“The next step in Venus exploration requires a capable instrument payload that can employ modern capabilities to produce definitive datasets that transform our understanding of our planetary neighborhood,” said Stephanie Getty, deputy principal investigator for DAVINCI+ at NASA Goddard. “DAVINCI+ takes proven instrumentation to the most innovative science problems of Venus today, and we are excited to bring along an energized science community on our journey as we deliver the chemical, geologic, and atmospheric dynamics datasets that will generate the next great discoveries – and next great questions – about Venus and Venus-like worlds.”

The probe will contain four instruments. Two of them – the Venus Mass Spectrometer (VMS) and the Venus Tunable Laser Spectrometer (VTLS) – will undertake the first complete compositional study of the entire cross-section of Venus’ atmospheric gases, searching for clues as to how, when, and why Venus’ climate may have changed so dramatically. The third instrument, the Venus Atmospheric Structure Investigation (VASI), will measure the pressure, temperature, and winds from about 43.5 miles (70 kilometers) in altitude to the surface at 10 times higher resolution (or more) than any previous Venus probe. A

fter the probe drops under the thick cloud layer, the Venus Descent Imager (VenDI) instrument will take hundreds of near-infrared images of the Alpha Regio highlands, which the team will use to make maps of topography and composition. These images will show landscapes unique to Venus at the high resolutions typical of landers (near the surface).

The spacecraft will have one instrument, a suite of four cameras called VISOR (Venus Imaging System from Orbit for Reconnaissance). One camera will be sensitive to ultraviolet light to track cloud motions in the atmosphere. Additionally, a suite of three cameras sensitive to near-infrared light will be able to identify surface composition at regional scales by analyzing near-infrared heat emission from the surface when the spacecraft is over the night side of Venus.

Since rock composition can be influenced by water, these images will give clues to how ancient oceans may have shaped the crust of Venus. The camera suite will provide the first compositional maps of Ishtar Terra, the high latitude “continent” on Venus with a range in height of up to 6.8 miles (11 kilometers). Ishtar may be the last manifestation of a kind of plate tectonics on Venus that shut off when the oceans dissipated about one billion years ago.

NASA Goddard is the principal investigator institution and will perform project management for the mission, as well as project systems engineering to develop the probe flight system. Goddard will build the VMS instrument in collaboration with the University of Michigan, and the sensor systems of the VASI instrument. Goddard also leads the project science support team.

News Related

OTHER NEWS

Space industry grapples with COVID-19-related oxygen fuel shortage

A pandemic-related shortage of a key rocket propellant, liquid oxygen, could force rocket launches to be postponed in coming months, possibly delaying important scientific and national defense missions, industry observers ... Read more »

Gaofen 5-02 satellite launched from Taiyuan

China launched the Gaofen 5-02 Earth-observation satellite on Tuesday morning at the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in Shanxi province, according to the China National Space Administration. The administration said the ... Read more »

Largest virtual universe free for anyone to explore

Forget about online games that promise you a “whole world” to explore. An international team of researchers has generated an entire virtual UNIVERSE, and made it freely available on the ... Read more »

Laser solid-phase synthesis of single atom catalysts

Laser fabrication of nanoparticles offers a powerful and flexible alternative to the purely chemical approaches. In recent years, laser synthesized precious metal nanoparticles are becoming increasingly important in catalysis due ... Read more »

Kleos secures A$12.6 million to grow constellation

Kleos Space S.A, a space-powered Radio Frequency Reconnaissance data-as-a- service (DaaS) company, has secured A$12.6 million (equivalent to 9.3 million USD) from new and existing institutional and sophisticated investors in ... Read more »

Eutelsat completes OneWeb equity investment

Eutelsat Communications confirms the closing of its $550m equity investment in OneWeb announced on April 27, 2021. Subject to completion of the subsequently announced investments in OneWeb by Bharti and ... Read more »

Global computing's carbon footprint is bigger than previously estimated

The world is more online than ever before, and as the digital economy continues to expand, so does the Internet’s carbon footprint. According to a new study, published Friday in ... Read more »

Smoke alarm, burning smell disrupt crew on International Space Station

Russian cosmonauts woke up to an emergency alarm Thursday in one of their service modules at the International Space Station. Audio from NASA’s television feed caught a French astronaut identifying ... Read more »

NASA works to give satellite swarms a hive mind

Swarms of small satellites could communicate amongst themselves to collect data on important weather patterns at different times of the day or year, and from multiple angles. Such swarms, using ... Read more »

New ALMA receivers achieve first light, set record for observational capabilities

new set of receivers installed on antennas at the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) have achieved first light. With it, they set a new record for the longest wavelengths visible ... Read more »

Crews at Russian Cosmodrome assemble spacecraft with VR Glasses

Virtual reality glasses are used by the military units of the Plesetsk cosmodrome in Russia to train to assemble space rockets, St. Petersburg-based Mozhaisky Military Space Academy told reporters on ... Read more »

Satellite in sun's backyard unravels the origins of interplanetary dust

What do shooting stars and astronaut safety have in common? Both stem from the sub-microscopic rock fragments found throughout the solar system, sometimes called interplanetary dust. When these particles collide ... Read more »

NASA awards launch services contract for GOES-U Mission

NASA has selected Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) of Hawthorne, California, to provide launch services for the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-U (GOES-U) mission. GOES-U will provide advanced imagery and atmospheric measurements ... Read more »

DARPA announces research teams to advance fundamental science of atomic vapors

DARPA has announced its selection of eight industry and university research teams to support the Science of Atomic Vapors for New Technologies (SAVaNT) program that kicked off this week. The ... Read more »

DLR Lampoldshausen prepares P5 test stand for the technologies of the future

The German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum fur Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) is preparing a central component of its extensive test infrastructure for the future by expanding the European Space Agency ... Read more »

Protective equipment against radiation to be tested on Nauka Module on ISS in 2023

New equipment that will help protect people from radiation during interplanetary flights will be tested on the Russian Nauka multipurpose laboratory module at the International Space Station, the head of ... Read more »

German ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer is ready for his first ISS mission - 'Cosmic Kiss'

At the end of October 2021, the German ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer, together with the NASA astronauts Raja Chari, Thomas H. Marshburn and Kayla Barron, are expected to launch to ... Read more »

Astronomers nail down the origins of rare loner dwarf galaxies

By definition, dwarf galaxies are small and dim, with just a fraction of the stars found in the Milky Way and other galaxies. There are, however, giants among the dwarfs: ... Read more »

Rocket flight to sharpen NASA's study of the Sun

It’s best not to look directly at the Sun, unless you’re one of NASA’s Sun-observing instruments. And even then, doing so will cause some damage. Exposure to the Sun degrades ... Read more »

Diamonds in the sky

Scientists from the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST) and Rutgers University have used simple concepts from granular physics to explain the curious diamond shapes of two ... Read more »

Planetary radar observes 1,000th near-earth asteroid since 1968

Seven days after this historic milestone, a massive antenna at NASA’s Deep Space Network Goldstone complex imaged another, far larger object. On Aug. 14, 2021, a small near-Earth asteroid (NEA) ... Read more »

Physicists discover black holes exert a pressure in serendipitous scientific first

Physicists at the University of Sussex have discovered that black holes exert a pressure on their environment, in a scientific first. In 1974 Stephen Hawking made the seminal discovery that ... Read more »

ESA Council agrees resolution on Ariane 6 and Vega-C exploitation and future space transportation

ESA Member States have agreed upon the boundary conditions for Europe’s upcoming exploitation of Ariane 6 and Vega-C and request ESA to propose a roadmap for new and innovative space ... Read more »

The Sun's 11-year cycle cannot explain global warming

The Earth’s global climate system fluctuates in 11-year and 3, 5-year cycles find Yizhak Feliks, Justin Small and Michael Ghil. The study was published in Climate Dynamics on July 15th. ... Read more »

Leak and destroy: On the hunt for climate killing gas

After finding a rusty gas canister near his midwest US home, Rick Karas checked online if it was worth anything. Incredibly, it turned out to be a coveted commodity in ... Read more »

Ariane 5 elements for Webb launch reach Europe's Spaceport

Major elements of the Ariane 5 rocket to launch the James Webb Space Telescope arrived safely in Kourou, French Guiana from Europe on 3 September 2021. The rocket’s fairing, upper ... Read more »

Parker Solar Probe team sheds new light on structure, behavior of inner solar system dust

Scientists using data from NASA’s Parker Solar Probe have assembled a comprehensive picture of the structure and behavior of the large cloud of space dust that swirls through the innermost ... Read more »

Astronomers explain origin of elusive ultradiffuse galaxies

As their name suggests, ultradiffuse galaxies, or UDGs, are dwarf galaxies whose stars are spread out over a vast region, resulting in extremely low surface brightness, making them very difficult ... Read more »

Antennas searching for ET threatened by wildfire

The Allen Telescope Array, an ensemble of 42 antennas used in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI), is once again threatened by wildfires. The scientists and engineers normally on-site have ... Read more »

Earthlike planets in other solar systems? Look for moons

Finding an exact copy of the Earth somewhere in the universe sounds like a far-fetched notion, but scientists believe that because Earth happened in our solar system, something similar is ... Read more »

China releases first batch of gamma photon data from dark matter explorer

China has released the first batch of gamma photon data obtained by the Dark Matter Particle Explorer (DAMPE), according to Science and Technology Daily on Wednesday. The National Space Science ... Read more »

ESO captures best images yet of peculiar "dog-bone" asteroid

Using the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (ESO’s VLT), a team of astronomers have obtained the sharpest and most detailed images yet of the asteroid Kleopatra. The observations have ... Read more »

New wave of electron research

While studying the behavior of electrons in iron-based superconducting materials, researchers at the University of Tokyo observed a strange signal relating to the way electrons are arranged. The signal implies ... Read more »

D-Orbit UK signs contract with ESA for development of debris removal technology

The UK branch of D-Orbit signed a euro 2,197M contract with the European Space Agency (ESA) for phase 1 of the development and in-orbit demonstration of a “Deorbit Kit” as ... Read more »

Independent group formed to advance interoperability in satellite and ground system networks

Leading companies and organizations in the space industry, including two major branches of the U.S. Department of Defense, have come together to form the Digital IF Interoperability (DIFI) Consortium, a ... Read more »

Putting a new theory of many-particle quantum systems to the test

New experiments using trapped one-dimensional gases-atoms cooled to the coldest temperatures in the universe and confined so that they can only move in a line-fit with the predictions of the ... Read more »

Chinese astronauts out of spacecraft for second time EVA

Chinese astronauts Nie Haisheng and Liu Boming had both slipped out of the space station core module Tianhe by 10:12 a.m. (Beijing Time) on Friday to conduct extravehicular activities (EVAs) ... Read more »

Computers help scientists understand the particles that make up atoms

Scientists use particle accelerators to speed up electrically charged particles to nearly the speed of light. They then smash those particles together to study the new particles that form, including ... Read more »

A few steps closer to Europa: spacecraft hardware makes headway

The hardware that makes up NASA’s Europa Clipper spacecraft is rapidly taking shape, as engineering components and instruments are prepared for delivery to the main clean room at the agency’s ... Read more »

Meteosat Gen 3 takes major step towards its first launch

After many technical and programmatic challenges, the first satellite of the next generation of the Meteosat family has taken a major step towards its first flight, currently scheduled for launch ... Read more »