Images of triton and venus against a pink nebula, titled NASA's Next adventure
Space

NASAs Next Adventure

NASA recently announced 4 potential missions to explore our solar system, as part of their Discovery Program, which aims to increase our understanding of the solar system! Each of the proposed missions have been granted $3 million to investigate their scientific value and feasibility. Can you guess where they are going?

Rocket Launch via Space.com

Scroll Down to Find Out!


VENUS

Being our so-called “twin planet” Venus is obviously high on the list for exploration! It’s especially important nowadays, as its hellish atmosphere is thought to be caused by the same mechanisms creating the climate change we are facing. Venus’ extreme climate exhibits a unique challenge for scientists and engineers, who must design a mission to withstand 400-degree heat, as well as an acidic environment.

Image result for venus

2 of the proposed missions would travel here:

1. DAVINCI+ (Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Chemistry, Imaging Plus) aims to measure precisely what its Atmosphere contains and how this changes with height. Consisting of a lander and orbiter, it also would have multiple cameras to map the surface geology! All of this would help to answer its main questions- Did Venus have Oceans? How did its Atmosphere form and evolve?

2. VERITAS (Venus Emissivity Radio Science, InSAR, Topography and Spectroscopy) would produce a detailed map of the surface, including rock type and geology, as well as watching for Infrared Emissions that could be evidence of ongoing volcanic/tectonic activity! (or alien civilisation, but let’s be honest, that’s the least likely scenario, even though it would be cool). This would aim to confirm whether volcanoes and other surface processes remain active!

Image result for VERITAS mission
VERITAS satellite concept art
via Wikipedia

GAS GIANTS

Further from the sun, in the outer solar system, the third prospective mission would voyage to Triton– Neptune’s largest moon. Trident, a flyby mission, would investigate the observed resurfacing and activity of this icy moon seen by Voyager 2. This is a really cool mission, as it would attempt to further our understanding of subsurface oceans and habitability!

Image result for triton moon
Triton

The final mission is to Io– the most volcanic body in the solar system! And so the mission, aptly named Io Volcano Observer (IVO), will examine how magma is generated and erupted, in order to discover how it, and other rocky bodies formed.

Image result for io moon satellite
Io is famous for its huge volcanic eruptions!
via NASA

Personally, I think that the 2 most useful and important missions are DAVINCI+ (as it could tell us more about the future and mechanisms of global warming) and Trident (which is useful for astrobiology and understanding our place in the universe). However, I have said in previous posts that Io is my favourite moon, so I would love to see a mission travel here!

All these missions are subject to change, and may not go ahead at all, but they are all incredibly fascinating and worthy of launch! These missions, costing less than $450 million, would launch in the late 20s as discovery (small) class missions!

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