HomeScience and ResearchSpaceNASA Convinced DAVINCI Will Reveal The Secrets Of Venus

NASA Convinced DAVINCI Will Reveal The Secrets Of Venus

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NASA’s DAVINCI is the first project to use both spacecraft flybys and a fall probe to explore Venus.

For the first time, DAVINCI, a flying analytical chemistry laboratory, will test crucial features of Venus’ vast atmosphere-climate system, many of which have been Venus measurement priorities since the early 1980s.

It will also give the first descent imaging of Venus’s mountainous highlands, as well as measuring their geological composition and surface relief at scales that are impossible to do from orbit. The mission will support measurements of hitherto unknown gases found in trace levels in the deepest atmosphere, such as the critical ratio of hydrogen isotopes – water constituents that tell the history of water as liquid water seas or steam in the early atmosphere.

During flybys of Venus, the mission’s carrier, relay, and imaging spacecraft (CRIS) will drop a small descent probe with five instruments that will provide a medley of new measurements at very high precision, as well as a small descent probe with two onboard instruments that will study the planet’s clouds and map its highland areas.

As explained by Jim Garvin, lead author of the paper: “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.”

“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,” adds the researcher.

DAVINCI will use three Venus gravity assists, which save fuel by allowing the CRIS flying system to alter speed and/or direction using the planet’s gravity. The first two gravity aids will prepare CRIS for a Venus flyby, allowing it to conduct remote sensing in the ultraviolet and near-infrared light and collect more than 60 gigabits of new data about the planet’s atmosphere and surface. The third gravity assists from Venus will prepare the spacecraft for entrance, descent, science, and a touchdown, as well as follow-up transmission to Earth.

The first flyby of Venus will occur six and a half months after launch, and it will take two years to position the probe for entry into the atmosphere over Alpha Regio under ideal lighting at “high noon,” with the objective of measuring the landscapes of Venus at scales ranging from 328 feet (100 meters) to less than one meter. Such scales allow for lander-style geologic studies in Venus’s highlands without the need for landing.

The probe flight system will be released once the CRIS system is about two days away from Venus, along with the titanium three foot (one meter) diameter probe safely encased inside. At around 75 miles (120 kilometers) above the surface, the probe will begin interacting with Venus’ upper atmosphere. After letting go of its heat shield about 67 kilometers (42 miles) above the surface, the science probe will start making scientific observations. With the heatshield removed, the probe’s inlets will consume atmospheric gas samples for comprehensive chemistry tests similar to those done by the Curiosity rover on Mars. As soon as it emerges beneath the clouds at roughly 100,000 feet (30,500 meters) above the local surface, the probe will take hundreds of photographs on its hour-long descend to the surface.

“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,” says Stephanie Getty, Goddard’s deputy principle investigator. “If we survive the touchdown at about 25 miles per hour (12 meters/second), we could have up to 17-18 minutes of operations on the surface under ideal conditions.”

DAVINCI is set to launch in June 2029 and enter the Venusian atmosphere in June 2031, according to current plans.

“No previous mission within the Venus atmosphere has measured the chemistry or environments at the detail that DAVINCI’s probe can do,” Garvin adds. “Furthermore, no previous Venus mission has descended over the tesserae highlands of Venus, and none have conducted descent imaging of the Venus surface. DAVINCI will build on what Huygens probe did at Titan and improve on what previous in situ Venus missions have done, but with 21st century capabilities and sensors.”

Image Credit: Getty

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