Scientists are hoping to convince NASA to send a flagship mission to Venus in order to learn more about the planet’s past and if how habitable it could have been.
The Venus Flagship mission would be the first to touch down on our neighboring planet since 1994. Scientists want a flagship mission — the most expensive class of a NASA project — because they want to go deeper into the research of habitability on Venus, according to Space.com.
“It’s always been important for Venus science; it is getting increasingly important and perhaps accessible and a little bit better understood,” Mission principal investigator Martha Gilmore said during a meeting about the project earlier this month. ”If we’re going to tackle a problem like this, a flagship could do that.”
Space.com reports that scientists want to carry out the mission for $2 billion, which would only be one tricky part of the mission. The other challenge would be making sure the spacecraft would be able to survive Venus’ harsh environment, which includes volcanoes and big lava plains.
Some evidence suggests that millions of years ago, Venus could have been a hospitable planet with lower temperatures allowing water to exist on its surface. However, recent research reveals that Venus might not have had oceans on its surface as we had thought. Instead, scientists found that the highlands of Venus are likely made of basaltic lava rather than granite. While granite needs water in order to form, basaltic lava does not require water.
The Venus Flagship mission hopes to explore the question of habitability by looking at volatile compounds like water, the planet’s climate history and the relationship between its surface and its atmosphere, and better understanding the geologic activity on Venus.
The mission wouldn’t be ready anytime soon, though. Scientists have to send a report on the mission to NASA, NASA will have to submit it to the National Academies of Sciences decadal planetary review process, which will then have to determine NASA’s long-term goals starting 2023.
Digital Trends reached out to NASA to comment on the proposed Venus mission, and we’ll update this story once we hear back.
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