Is Venus ready for its close-up?
NASA has announced five projects under consideration for its next space mission, and the second planet from the sun plays a role in two of them.
One of the proposals involves dropping a spacecraft, dubbed DAVINCI (Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry, and Imaging), through Venus' atmosphere to study its composition. Another proposal would send a craft to map the surface of the planet in detail, to see how similar Venus’ surface is to Earth's and whether Venus was ever capable of habitation.
The other three projects would focus on the study of asteroids and near-earth objects -- a term for anything floating in orbit around our planet, including meteoroids and old satellites.
The investigations were selected from a pool of 27 submitted proposals for their ability to reveal new insights about the universe around us.
“Dynamic and exciting missions like these hold promise to unravel the mysteries of our solar system and inspire future generations of explorers,” John Grunsfeld, astronaut and associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, said in a statement. NASA's Discovery Program originally solicited proposals for its 13th mission in February 2014.
NASA will give the team behind each project $3 million for research. The agency will then evaluate what the teams come up with and decide by September 2016 which mission to carry out. Whichever mission it selects is expected to cost about $500 million, not including the expense of post-launch operations.