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Will NASA return to Venus 34 years after its final mission to search for extraterrestrial life?

The space agency announced a new mission to visit the hottest planet in the solar system after two studies were published suggesting the possibility of extraterrestrial life on this planet.

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June
3, 2021

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This article was translated from our Spanish edition using AI technologies. Errors can occur because of this process.

While Elon Musk is focused on colonizing Mars, NASA has another destination: Venus. The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration has announced that it will return to the hottest planet in the solar system. The last mission to Earth's neighbor was in 1994, while the next explorations will take place later this decade.

This Wednesday, NASA announced that sometime between 2028 and 2030 they will launch two missions that will visit Venus. This would be the first direct exploration of the planet in 34 years.

These expeditions are the newest projects in NASA's Discovery Program, a kind of internal incubator for planetary science missions.

A mission will be called VERITAS (Latin for “truth”), the abbreviation for “Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography, and Spectroscopy”. This spaceship is supposed to orbit the planet in order to map and examine it from above. The main goal is to understand how Venus evolved to reach surface temperatures close to 500 ° C and an atmosphere so dense that almost no known organism would support it.

The other is called DAVINCI +, short for & # 39; Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry, and Imaging Plus & # 39 ;. This spacecraft will attempt to land on the surface to study the atmosphere as it descends and understand its chemical composition.

Today we announce two new missions to explore the planet Venus, which we haven't visited in over 30 years! DAVINCI + analyzes its atmosphere and VERITAS maps the surface. #StateOfNASA
Read more https://t.co/M237gwgsCg pic.twitter.com/ii4rUodo0A

– NASA in Spanish (@NASA_es) June 2, 2021

"These two sister missions are aimed at understanding how Venus became a hellish world that can melt lead on its surface," NASA administrator Bill Nelson told a news conference. "They will give the entire scientific community an opportunity to study a planet we haven't been on in over 30 years."

Will they look for life on Venus?

During the press conference, NASA made no mention of any of the missions looking for traces of extraterrestrial life.

However, the agency previously warned of the possibility of microbial life floating in Venus' atmosphere. In addition, a controversial result last year suggested that there might be a life-related gas there.

The study prompted then-NASA administrator Jim Brindenstine to declare that "the time has come to prioritize Venus," as quoted by the New York Times.

In fact, the missions to Venus took precedence over two other proposals. One of them, called Trident, would fly over Neptune's largest moon; the other, named Io Volcanic Observer, would make 10 flybys of Jupiter's moon Io.

Currently, NASA's Discovery program includes the Lucy and Psyche missions to explore Trojan asteroids near Jupiter and a metal-rich asteroid orbiting beyond Mars. The two currently active missions are the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and the InSight module on Mars.

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