NASA Has Slated Two New Venus Missions… Both With Good Exo-Bioscience Goals…

Last September, we all learned that there appears to be vastly too much phosphine in the atmosphere of Venus (based on our existing understanding of that planet’s history). Of course, it is very likely the result of volcanic action, and resultant gaseous buildup, over a billion or so years. But it is also tantalizingly-possible. . . that the excess amounts detected reflect at least some prior biological sources.

Now, in the Summer of 2021, NASA is planning a pair of missions to resolve that, and other planetary mysteries, at our nearest inner-looped neighbor. Here’s the Wa Po, with a bit of it:

. . .The prospect of returning to Venus later this decade doesn’t just represent an exciting new chapter in NASA’s exploration of the solar system. Certainly, these missions will dramatically change our view of Venus: VERITAS will characterize the surface with radar like never before, searching for evidence of geological activity today; DAVINCI+ will measure the composition of the atmosphere to establish how the planet formed and evolved (and perhaps whether the planet really contains phosphine, a chemical tentatively detected in Venus’s atmosphere last year with telescopes on Earth, and which some consider a potential “biosignature”). . . .

[R]ecently, a new view of Venus has emerged that paints quite a different picture of our neighbor’s history. Sophisticated climate modeling suggests the planet might have escaped an early period of overheating, instead remaining clement and hosting oceans for several billion years. Under this scenario, the culprit for its dreadful runaway greenhouse was not the sun, but something intrinsic to Venus: its volcanoes. If enough eruptions occurred close enough in time, the combined volume of carbon dioxide injected into the atmosphere would have overwhelmed the planet’s ability to regulate its climate, putting it on a path to catastrophe. . . .

We shall see — by the middle of the decade. . . (and the increased recent volcanic activity on Earth, in 2020-21, ought to give us at least some pause). Indeed, now onward — to that undiscovered country, smiling (in spite of the recent antics of Bezos, Musk and Branson). . . do be excellent to one another.


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