The three major exploration missions may unveil the mysterious "veil" of Venus

  Our reporter Liu Xia


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  "Da Vinci+" will launch a one-meter-diameter probe to explore the atmosphere from above the clouds to the surface of what might have been a continent.

During the last few kilometers of free fall, the probe will take spectacular images for the first time and make chemical measurements of the deepest part of Venus’ atmosphere.

  After years of waiting, a fleet of spaceships is about to go to Venus one after another!

  After eagerly gazing at Mars for decades, the US and European space agencies have turned their heads back and set their sights on Venus again, and recently announced plans for Venus exploration.

  Three major exploration projects have been "launched"

  On June 2nd, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced that it will launch two detectors to Venus in the next ten years-the orbital vehicle "Truth" (VERITAS), which is responsible for mapping the surface of Venus, and the probe that dives into the atmosphere of Venus. "Da Vinci+" (DAVINCI+).

  Later, the European Space Agency also revealed that it will launch its own probe to Venus-an orbiter called En-Vision.

The mission is to study how the atmosphere, surface and interior of Venus interact to form the current hellish "pressure cooker" state.

  The probe that NASA intends to launch will be the first mission to Venus by the United States since the launch of the Magellan orbiter in 1989; the Outlook is the European Space Agency's first Venus since the launch of the Venus Express probe in 2005 detector.

Currently only one detector orbits Venus: Japan’s "Akatsuki" Venus probe, which arrived in 2015 and is currently studying the atmosphere of Venus.

  According to a report by the US Business Insider website on June 10, NASA’s two missions are scheduled to be launched between 2028 and 2030, while the European Space Agency’s probe will be launched sometime in the early 1930s to photograph the high surface of Venus. Resolution radar image.

  According to a report on the "Nature" website on June 18, the three probes will jointly write a new chapter in the scientific renaissance of Venus, answering the main questions about this planet: Why is Venus so different from the earth, whether it once had oceans and is therefore livable , Whether there are still active volcanoes on it.

  Venus is about the same size as Earth but not an oasis

  One of the main questions about Venus is: Venus was once very similar to the Earth-two planets of the same size and made of the same material, but why is Venus now a purgatory place, and the earth an oasis of life?

  Scientists believe that Venus may even have oceans in ancient times, but something happened that greatly changed the climate of Venus.

Today, it is the hottest planet in the solar system. It has thick yellow sulfuric acid clouds that can lock heat. The average surface temperature is as high as 471°C-hot enough to melt lead, and its atmospheric pressure is more than 90 times the atmospheric pressure of the earth. Times.

  To find out, the "Truth" and "Forecast" projects will play an important role: they will use radar instruments to image the surface of Venus to study the geological history of Venus.

  In addition, figuring out whether liquid water has ever existed on the surface of Venus is crucial to understanding why Venus is different from Earth.

Astronomers have seen “clues” of the existence of water in the atmosphere of Venus, but it is still unclear whether the water came from the ancient oceans on the surface of Venus-these oceans disappeared due to the warming of Venus, or in the early history of Venus. Is it just in the form of steam?

The former means that Venus was once as habitable as Earth.

  "Da Vinci+" may help answer this question when studying the atmosphere of Venus.

James Gavin, the chief scientist of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and the "Da Vinci+" mission leader, said that the "Da Vinci+" probe will descend for about an hour, sampling the atmosphere every 100 meters at a lower altitude. , And perform high-precision measurements to reveal which gases are present.

  Gavin said: "The chemical characteristics will tell us whether there was an ocean on Venus in the past and its properties. Then, we can gather data provided by other probes (such as'Truth' and'Outlook') to draw a climate model of Venus."

  Is there an active volcano on Venus?

  Previous survey data showed that volcanoes once existed on Venus, but it is not clear whether volcanoes on Venus have erupted in the past few thousand years, or they are still erupting today.

  Both "Truth" and "Outlook" will take pictures of the surface of Venus to help answer these questions.

In particular, "Zhang", which will take high-resolution photos, is expected to reveal previously undiscovered features of the surface of Venus.

  The probe will also obtain relevant data on volcanic features such as lava flow, and its degree of weathering is expected to reveal when the volcano erupted.

Colin Wilson of the University of Oxford, the deputy chief scientist of the Zhanwang, said: "Fresh lava flows may look particularly dark or black."

  The "Akatsuki" probe recently observed that the amount of ultraviolet light absorbed by the atmosphere of Venus has changed, which may be an indicator of recent volcanic eruptions.

The researchers pointed out: "Now, the climate of Venus is constantly changing, possibly because of volcanic activity."

  Does phosphine exist on Venus

  In September of last year, interest in Venus was rekindled-a new study at the time showed that Venus' clouds may contain extraterrestrial microbes.

This is because the researchers found traces of phosphine in the upper part of the Venus cloud.

  On earth, this gas is usually produced by microorganisms.

However, a follow-up study showed that these trace components are not phosphine, but sulfur dioxide.

This casts a shadow over speculation that Venus may be suitable for life.

  The "Da Vinci+" detector may help to solve this problem. It may detect phosphine when sampling the atmosphere.

  NASA scientist Tom Wagner said: "We know very little about Venus. These exploration missions will help us fully understand Venus: from the clouds in the sky, to the volcanoes on the surface, and down to the planet's core. It's as if we have rediscovered it. This planet is the same."

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