NASA scientists are preparing to paint the most detailed picture of Venus’ atmosphere to date, when the aptly named DAVINCI – or Deep Atmosphere Venus Survey of Noble Gases, Chemistry and Imaging – mission drops a probe to the planet’s surface.
When the DAVINCI mission’s 3-foot-wide (0.9-meter) landing globe goes on a one-way parachute journey Venus‘ When it resurfaces in the early 2030s, it will carry the VASI (Venus Atmospheric Structure Survey) instrument along with five other instruments. VASI will collect data on the temperature, pressure and winds of the area. atmosphere of venus It makes its hellish descent and enters the planet’s overwhelming lower atmosphere.
“There are actually some big puzzles about the deep atmosphere of Venus,” said Ralph Lorenz, VASI instrument science leader and planetary scientist at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Maryland. Declaration. “We don’t have all the pieces of this puzzle, and DAVINCI will give us these pieces by simultaneously measuring the composition of pressure and temperature as we approach the surface.”
Related: NASA’s Parker Solar Probe takes stunning photo of Venus during close flyby
Venus’ dense atmosphere hides many mysteries, including how it’s structured and how the planet’s many volcanoes have interacted with it over the ages. It’s one of the key goals for scientists to launch a probe into the atmosphere of the second planet. Sun this is to determine whether the earth is still volcanically active. The probe can detect this through measurements of atmospheric temperatures, winds and composition.
Solving these puzzles can give scientists an idea of what continued volcanic activity could mean for our home planet’s atmosphere.
“The long-term habitability of our planet, as we understand it, relies on a combination of interior space and atmosphere,” Lorenz said. Said. “The long-term abundance of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, which we really count on keeping the Earth’s surface warm enough to be habitable throughout geological time, is based on volcanoes.”
A one-way trip to Venus
One of the main challenges with exploring Venus has been the extreme conditions, which are 90 times greater than the planet’s surface pressures. Soil and surface temperatures are about 900 degrees Fahrenheit (460 degrees Celsius).
Additionally, before any probe from orbit reaches the planet’s surface, it must pass through clouds of sulfuric acid in Venus’ upper atmosphere. (These clouds also make Venus difficult to observe from Earth; they are reflective and bright, blocking our view of the planet’s surface.)
These threats mean that DAVINCI’s landing sphere systems and sensors will be enclosed in a rigid, submarine-like structure. But while the sphere is built to withstand intense atmospheric pressures and is insulated to protect its sensors from the intense heat near Venus’ surface, VASI’s sensors must somehow be exposed to harsh conditions to do their job.
“Venus is difficult. The low conditions in the atmosphere, in particular, make instrumentation and engineering the systems to support the instrumentation very difficult,” Lorenz said. “Everything must either be protected from the environment or built to somehow tolerate it.”
As the sphere passes through Venus’ atmosphere, VASI will measure temperature with a sensor inside a thin, straw-like metal tube. As the atmosphere heats the pipe, the sensor measures and records the expansion, and therefore the temperature, without direct exposure to the corrosive medium.
VASI will collect atmospheric pressure readings using a silicon membrane placed inside. One side of the membrane is exposed to vacuum, while the other side faces the atmosphere of Venus. The atmosphere pushes the membrane, stretching it, and the extent of this stretch reveals the strength of atmospheric pressure.
The device will measure Venusian winds with a combination of an accelerometer that tests velocity and direction changes, and gyroscopes that measure orientation. The mission will also track changes in wind speed and direction by monitoring changes in frequency and wavelength of radio waves.
Named after the Italian Renaissance sage Leonardo da Vinci, DAVINCI is currently set to launch in 2029. If it stays as planned, the landing sphere will plunge into the thick atmosphere of Venus in 2031.
The descent will take about an hour. The probe isn’t expected to survive the fall, but if it does, NASA scientists are prepared to get about 17 minutes of bonus science on the surface with the doomed device.
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