June 28, 2022

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

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

An illustration of NASA's DAVINCI Venus probe

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 mysterious, and potentially habitable, past of the scorching hot planet.

Upon reaching the second planet from the Sun, the probe plunges through Venus’ atmosphere, swallowing its gases for about an hour before landing on the planet’s surface, according to paper Published in The Planetary Science Journal. 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 taking some pictures of its journey through planetary hell.

An acronym for the Venus Deep Atmosphere Investigation of Noble Gases, Chemistry, and Imaging, DAVINCI is one of the Three upcoming missions planned to Venus, Much to the delight of flower nerds 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 hasn’t sent a specialized Venus mission, 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 boasts 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 a strange volcanic landscape. Maybe something happened during Venus’ early history made it develop such harsh and inhospitable conditions, And to end up completely different from Earth.

“The atmosphere of Venus holds the chemical clues to understanding the full range of aspects of that planet, including the composition of its beginning and how its climate has evolved through time,” Paul Byrne, associate professor of Earth and planetary sciences at Washington University 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 oceans of liquid water in the past, and if so, when and why those oceans were lost.”

How will da Vinci measure the atmosphere of Venus?

In order to do so, da Vinci would travel about 38 million miles (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 flybys, 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 tidalally locked, but has a very slow rate of rotation).

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

“It turns out that the Venus atmosphere is relatively clement up around 55 km [35 miles]but quickly start to get hotter and denser as you get closer to the surface,” Byrne said. “To say nothing of sulfuric acid clouds, although fortunately they tend to dissipate once you fall 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; It is hoped that these tools will paint a better and more in-depth picture of the multi-layered atmosphere. The probe will begin its interaction with Venus’s upper atmosphere when it reaches a height of 75 miles (120 kilometers) and will eject its heat shield when it is 42 miles (67 kilometers) from Earth. Once it sinks beneath Venus’ thick layer of clouds, about 100,000 feet (30,500 meters) above the surface, the probe will attempt to take hundreds of images. Venus’ clouds have shrouded the planet, covering its surface from view, so these images are set up to offer some unprecedented views.

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

When it lands, the probe should not move faster than about 25 mph (40 km/h). 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 probe will run for 17 to 18 minutes once it commits to a landing, but it’s not really necessary to work on Venus because all the precious data was already collected during its atmospheric plunge.

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

Illustration of DAVINCI’s descent field falling into the atmosphere of Venus
screenshot: NASA

Is the flower habitable?

Although today Venus is not an ideal place for life, scientists want to check whether the planet is habitable or not.

In September 2020, a group of scientists claimed that Venus may have Signs of life in its clouds BBased on detection 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 was habitable during its past depends on whether the planet has hosted liquid watery oceans, or if it has a thick, steamy atmosphere.

“The DAVINCI probe will look 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 is habitable at all.”

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