NASA’s next two missions, named DAVINCI+ and VERITAS, are heading to Venus, administrator Bill Nelson announced at a news conference this week. “We hope these missions will further our understanding of how Earth evolved and why it’s currently habitable, when others in our solar system are not,” Nelson said. The missions are expected to leave Earth at the end of this decade, between 2028 and 2030.The European Space Agency is considering another Venus orbiter called EnVision that would provide complementary data to VERITAS and DAVINCI+. Venus is almost the same size as Earth, but it seems to have had a different history. There’s evidence that it was once covered in oceans and could have been habitable. Today it’s a scorched hellscape with clouds of sulfuric acid, so no spacecraft has lasted more than two hours on its surface. Venus is a hostile world.The earliest missions, dispatched by the Soviet Union, revealed an inferno of a planet, with scorching temperatures that melted the spacecraft that managed to touch down.
The high temperature also means a very high pressure of 90 bars (equivalent to roughly one kilometer underwater). The VERITAS mission will orbit Venus and study the planet’s surface to figure out its history and why it’s so different from Earth. The orbiter will map the surface with radar. There’s a spacecraft in orbit around Venus now, a Japanese spacecraft called Akatsuki. Astronauts may never visit the planet, but Venus is one of the most exciting targets in the search for life beyond Earth. Venus holds many more mysteries for the science community.