NASA’s DAVINCI mission will dive into the massive atmosphere of Venus


Credit: NASA

In an article recently published in The Journal of Planetary Science, NASA scientists and engineers provide new details on the agency’s Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gas, Chemistry, and Imaging (DAVINCI) mission, which will descend through Venus’ stratified atmosphere to the surface of the planet in mid-2031. DAVINCI is the first mission to study Venus using both spacecraft flybys and a descent probe.

DAVINCI, a flying analytical chemistry laboratory, will for the first time measure critical aspects of Venus’ massive atmosphere-climate system, many of which have been measurement targets for Venus since the early 1980s. It will also provide the first descent imagery of the mountainous highlands of Venus while mapping their rock composition and surface relief at scales not possible from orbit. The mission supports measurements of undiscovered gases present in small quantities and in the deepest atmosphere, including the key ratio of hydrogen isotopes, components of water that help reveal the history of water, in the form of oceans of liquid water or vapor in the primitive atmosphere.

The Mission’s Carrier, Relay and Imager Craft (CRIS) has two onboard instruments that will study the planet’s clouds and map its mountainous areas during flybys of Venus and also drop a small descent probe with five instruments that will provide a mix of new, very high-precision measurements during its descent to the infernal surface of Venus.

“This dataset of chemical, environmental and descent imagery will paint a picture of the layered atmosphere of Venus and how it interacts with the surface in the mountains of Alpha Regio, which is twice the size of the Texas,” said Jim Garvin, lead author of the Planetary Science Journal article and DAVINCI Principal Investigator of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “These measurements will allow us to assess historical aspects of the atmosphere as well as detect special rock types on the surface, such as granites, while looking for telltale landscape features that could tell us about erosion or degradation. ‘other training processes.’

DAVINCI will use three Venus gravity assists, which save fuel by using the planet’s gravity to alter the speed and/or direction of the CRIS flight system. The first two gravity assists will set up CRIS for a flyby of Venus to perform ultraviolet and near-infrared remote sensing, acquiring more than 60 gigabits of new atmospheric and surface data. The third Venus gravity assist will configure the spacecraft to release the probe for entry, descent, science and landing, as well as tracking transmission to Earth.

The first flyby of Venus will take place six and a half months after its launch and it will take two years to bring the probe into position for entry into the atmosphere above Alpha Regio under ideal lighting at “noon”, in the purpose of measuring the landscapes of Venus at scales ranging from 328 feet (100 meters) to less than one meter. Such scales allow lander-type geological studies in the mountains of Venus without the need for landing.

Once the CRIS system is about two days away from Venus, the probe flight system will be released with the three-foot (one meter) diameter titanium probe safely locked inside. The probe will begin to interact with Venus’ upper atmosphere about 120 kilometers above the surface. The science probe will begin scientific observations after dropping its heat shield approximately 67 kilometers above the surface. With the heat shield jettisoned, the probe’s inlets will ingest atmospheric gas samples for detailed chemical measurements of the kind that have been made on Mars with the Curiosity rover. During its hour-long descent to the surface, the probe will also acquire hundreds of images as it emerges from beneath clouds about 100,000 feet (30,500 meters) above the local surface.

“The probe will land in the Alpha Regio Mountains but is not required to operate once it lands, as all required scientific data will be taken before reaching the surface,” said Stephanie Getty, Goddard’s deputy principal investigator. . “If we survive touchdown at around 25 miles per hour (12 meters/second), we could have up to 17-18 minutes of surface operations under ideal conditions.”

DAVINCI is tentatively scheduled to launch in June 2029 and enter the Venusian atmosphere in June 2031.

“No previous mission to Venus’ atmosphere has measured chemistry or environments in the detail that DAVINCI’s probe can,” Garvin said. “Furthermore, no previous Venus mission has descended above the Venus tesserae highlands, and none have performed descent imaging of the surface of Venus. DAVINCI will build on what the Huygens probe has done to Titan and will improve on what previous in situ Venus missions have done, but with 21st century capabilities and sensors.”


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More information:
James B. Garvin et al, Revealing the Mysteries of Venus: The DAVINCI Mission, The Journal of Planetary Science (2022). DOI: 10.3847/PSJ/ac63c2

Quote: NASA’s DAVINCI mission to plunge into the massive atmosphere of Venus (June 2, 2022) Retrieved June 3, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-06-nasa-davinci-mission-plunge-massive .html

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