Hindustan Times ST (Jaipur)


- Associated Press

Nasa is returning to sizzling Venus, our closest yet perhaps most overlooked neighbour, after decades of exploring other worlds.

The space agency’s new administra­tor, Bill Nelson, announced two new robotic missions to the solar system’s hottest planet, during his first major address to employees on Wednesday.

“These two sister missions both aim to understand how Venus became an inferno-like world capable of melting lead at the surface,” Nelson said.

One mission named Davinci Plus will analyse the thick, cloudy Venusian atmosphere in an attempt to determine whether the inferno planet ever had an ocean and was possibly habitable. A small craft will plunge through the atmosphere to measure the gases.

It will be the first Us-led mission to the Venusian atmosphere since 1978. The other mission, called Veritas, will seek a geologic history by mapping the rocky planet’s surface.

“It is astounding how little we know about Venus,” but the new missions will give fresh views of the planet’s atmosphere, made up mostly of carbon dioxide, down to the core, Nasa scientist Tom Wagner said in a statement. “It will be as if we have rediscover­ed the planet.”

Each mission - launching sometime around 2028 to 2030 - will receive $500 million for developmen­t under Nasa’s Discovery programme.

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