June 10, 2021 10:37:56 AM IST
It’s been 30 years since NASA last visited Venus with the Magellan orbiter in 1990. Now two new missions were chosen to explore the deadly atmosphere, overwhelming pressure and volcanic landscape.
The process dates back to February 2020 when NASA announced that four missions would undergo a nine-month peer-reviewed process for feasibility. They were all part of the Discovery program, which was launched by NASA in 1992 to bring scientists and engineers together to develop exciting and revolutionary missions. Apart from the flagship missions – like for example curiosity and endurance – The Discovery missions have taken unique and innovative approaches to solar system exploration.
The two victorious Venus missions, Davinci and Veritas, received $ 500 million (£ 354 million) and will be launched between 2028 and 2030. But the competition was fierce from the two lost missions that were on Io and Triton, or the moons of Jupiter and Neptune. So what are we missing out on?
Explore the bizarre moon of Jupiter
Io is a strange moon – even among the moons that are strange at first. As the innermost moon of Jupiter, which orbits only 350,000 km above the cloud tops, it gives Io an extreme Heating mechanism that does it the most volcanic Object in the solar system with more than four hundred volcanoes.
Given that we live on a planet with lots of volcanoes, you might think that we have a good idea of where all of this heat is coming from. According to Alfred McEwen, the lead investigator of the planned Io Volcanic Explorer or IVO mission, we still have a deep ignorance about how it actually works.
IVO is designed to perform multiple overflights of the moon and use a range of instruments to map activity on and below the surface. By collecting information about Io’s magnetic and gravitational fields, filming huge eruptions of lava, and analyzing gas and dust escaping from the moon, IVO would help scientists figure out how Ios’s heat is created and lost.
All of this information is vital – not just for great space volcano videos – as this type of extreme activity is considered one of the important aspect the formation and planetary evolution. By understanding the processes that drive change on Io, we can ultimately learn more about how planets and moons were born.
Also read: NASA selects the DAVINCI + and VERITAS missions to explore Venus for its discovery program
The ice giants
The least explored and understood planets are Uranus and Neptune, and they are home to some of the stranger things in the solar system. Uranus has an axial tilt – the angle of its axis of rotation relative to the plane around which it orbits the Sun – so extreme that it turns sideways. It is believed that this is the result of a. is Huge collision in the past of the solar system.
Neptune is now the home of the only big moon orbiting its home planet, the curious Triton, backwards. The particular orbital arrangement is not the end of the quirks. The plane in which Triton’s orbit is offset by an extreme 23 degrees from that of Neptune, and is believed to be towards. moved Kuiper Belt Neptune, the region beyond the orbit of Neptune filled with the icy remains of the formation of the solar system.
Triton also has one active ionosphere – a layer of charged particles in its atmosphere that is ten times more active than any other moon that is not powered by the sun – as well as an ever-changing and dynamic surface that could be covered in nitrogen-containing snow. When Voyager 2 took photos of the moon, he discovered cryovolcanoes – geysers that burst from ice and gas up to 8 km high and could point to an underground ocean.
The proposed Trident mission would have explored these many strange things about the moon. He proposed a three-pronged approach, using instruments to measure the Triton’s magnetic field. He would have identified the existence and structure of an underground ocean. High-resolution infrared cameras would have allowed the spacecraft to map the entire surface using the sunlight reflected from Neptune to show scientists what has changed since the last visit in 1989, alive and young.
In the end, Trident and IVO lost to the Venus missions. It would have been fascinating to re-explore the vastness of the solar system or see the colossal volcanoes of Io. But Venus is a fascinating planet with its own secrets and potentials.
Ashley Spindler, STFC Innovation Researcher, University of Hertfordshire
This article was republished by The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.
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