The discovery of Venus is the new goal of NASA and the European Space Agency

Venus. (NASA/JPL-CALTECH/AFP)

Venus is the second closest planet to the sun after Mercury, it is our closest neighbor, moreover it is very similar to the Earth: the same size, the same origin and composition, volcanic activity are both present, especially the presence of water, at least in the past of Venus. However, it is a little known planet, because quite a few expeditions have been sent to explore it. Over the past 30 years, Magellan appeared in the 1990s, which brought some faded images to its surface, Venus Express Between 2005 and 2014, which especially made it possible to assume the presence of active volcanoes on the planet, and then more recently the Japanese Akatsuki mission, which continues to study its atmosphere. So there are a few missions, but it only gives a very partial view of the planet.

So Europeans and Americans chose to join forces to send out three new sensors almost simultaneously: Davinci+ and Veritas by NASA, EnVision by the European Space Agency, three machines that will therefore have to provide new, more complete data over the next day. decade, both on the atmosphere and on the geology of the planet.

How and why is Venus today so different from Earth? Why and how did its climate change so drastically that it ended up with an atmosphere full of carbon dioxide surrounded by clouds of sulfuric acid, covering a surface where the average temperature exceeds 400 degrees Celsius? And then, another question: Since the existence of water has been proven at some point in Venus’ history, can we detect traces of an ocean that has now evaporated? Were the conditions favorable to the development of a life form fulfilled there?

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The three sensors will be equipped with the latest generation of radars capable of mapping the surface with an accuracy of a few tens of metres, compared to a distance of one kilometer for images transmitted at the time by the Magellan probe. Davinci + will send its instruments to Earth, crossing the atmosphere during which the distribution of various gases will be measured. Also the opportunity to take some pictures that were impossible until now. The missions should take off around 2031, aboard the Ariane 6 of the European EnVision probe. The journey takes 15 months.

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