Delays in the first of three long-awaited Venus return missions, which scientists say have not had enough robotic visitors in past decades, could affect two other missions set to explore our planetary neighbor.
NASA pushed back late last year Veritas (or Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, INSAR, Topography and Spectroscopy) mission, originally scheduled to fly in 2027 to “inaugurate the decade of VenusNot before 2031. However, the White House’s 2024 budget proposal for NASA, announced in March 2023, keeps mission funding for VERITAS at just $1.5 million per year for the foreseeable future, calling the mission “deep freeze.” Because of NASA’s decision to use a large portion of the money that had supported the project’s engineering activities for other missions that were experiencing cost overruns, much of the VERITAS mission is now at a standstill. indefinite delay The mission’s engineering branch broke down, and scientists now worry about its impact on two other related missions to Venus.
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“VERITAS has incredible synergy with other missions,” Stephen Kane, an astronomer at the University of California, Riverside, told Space.com.
Veritas was supposed to be the first mission since NASA to return to Venus Magellan spacecraft It orbited about 30 years ago. The spacecraft will “contribute fundamental measurements needed for all types of Venus fundamental science,” Darby Dyer, Veritas’ deputy principal investigator, told Space.com.
Some of the measurements, such as mapping the surface of Venus with a resolution at least three times better than Magellan’s, were intended to support other NASA Venus missions— Dr. Binchi (or Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble Gases, Chemistry and Imaging).
Scheduled to reach Venus in the early 2030s, DAVINCI will drop a probe into the planet’s thick clouds that will make its way to the surface. As originally planned, VERITAS will already reach Venus before DAVINCI’s launch, so scientists hope to use its data to select the best landing site for DAVINCI’s probe. “The surface mapping provided by Veritas will be incredibly useful for fine-tuning DAVINCI’s deployment,” Kane told Space.com.
Another mission is primarily intended to benefit from VERITAS data imagination, which is led by the European Space Agency (ESA) and is scheduled to launch in the early 2030s to study the climate of Venus. Now, Envision will visit the planet at exactly the same time as the delayed VERITAS arrives — if It survived NASA’s budget problems.
This result is “less than ideal when the Envision team was already hoping to get their hands on the VERITAS data,” Paul Byrne, an astronomy professor at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, told Space.com.
Parallel missions mean that both missions require identical instruments to be developed at the same time. For example, the German Aerospace Center (or DLR) is developing the Venus Emissivity Mapper (VEM) for VERITAS and the VenSpec-M for EnVision. Both instruments were intended to complement each other for surveying the planet’s surface, so DLR planned to build instruments for VERITAS first and then for EnVision.
“But with the current plan the DLR team can build two copies of the instrument suite at once,” Byron said. “It will put a strain on their time and staff.”
Scientists are also concerned that having VERITAS and EnVision on Venus simultaneously will result in less than ideal output for at least some of the expected science, including a shorter-than-preferred timeframe for detecting Venusian volcanoes.
For example, the VEM and VenSpec-M mapping instruments on both missions will look for active lava flows on the planet’s surface, which could provide strong evidence that the planet is still volcanically active. Such results will add up Recent discoveries An active volcano on Venus, which scientists found while sifting through 30-year-old data collected by NASA’s Magellan spacecraft.
The discovery was made possible because two images clicked eight months apart show that a volcanic vent has grown significantly larger and also changed its shape, reflecting recent volcanic activity. Scientists expect to find similar changes with upcoming missions, which is why the arrivals of VERITAS and EnVision were initially staggered, so that their data could complement each other.
“By delaying, we reduce the separation between VERITAS and EnVision.” Derby told Space.com. “That would give a shorter timeline for detection.”
Although VERITAS’ engineering team is currently standing by as directed by NASA, its science team is supported by limited funding of $1.5 million a year and continues to prepare for the mission while exploring ways to move the launch date past 2031.
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