NASA’s DAVINCI Space Probe to Plunge Through Hellish Atmosphere of Venus

DAVINCI Deep Atmosphere Probe on Venus

NASA’s DAVINCI mission will study the origin, evolution and current state of Venus in unprecedented detail from cloud tops to the planet’s surface. The mission’s goal is to help answer long-standing questions about our neighboring planet, particularly whether Venus was once wet and habitable like Earth. credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

Last year, NASA Selected Davinci Mission As part of its Discovery program. It will examine the origin, development and present status of[{” attribute=””>Venus in unparalleled detail from near the top of the clouds to the planet’s surface. Venus, the hottest planet in the solar system, has a thick, toxic atmosphere filled with carbon dioxide and an incredible pressure of pressure is 1,350 psi (93 bar) at the surface.

Named after visionary Renaissance artist and scientist Leonardo da Vinci, the DAVINCI mission Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry, and Imaging will be the first probe to enter the Venus atmosphere since NASA’s Pioneer Venus in 1978 and USSR’s Vega in 1985. It is scheduled to launch in the late 2020s.

Now, in a recently published paper, NASA scientists and engineers give new details about the agency’s Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry, and Imaging (DAVINCI) mission, which will descend through the layered Venus atmosphere to the surface of the planet in mid-2031. DAVINCI is the first mission to study Venus using both spacecraft flybys and a descent probe.

DAVINCI, a flying analytical chemistry laboratory, will measure critical aspects of Venus’ massive atmosphere-climate system for the first time, many of which have been measurement goals for Venus since the early 1980s. It will also provide the first descent imaging of the mountainous highlands of Venus while mapping their rock composition and surface relief at scales not possible from orbit. The mission supports measurements of undiscovered gases present in small amounts and the deepest atmosphere, including the key ratio of hydrogen isotopes – components of water that help reveal the history of water, either as liquid water oceans or steam within the early atmosphere.


NASA has selected the DAVINCI+ (Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble-Gas, Chemistry and Imaging+) mission as part of its Discovery Program, and has been in the atmosphere of Venus since 1978, NASA’s Pioneer Venus and USSR’s Vega. Will be the first probe to enter. 1985. Named after the visionary Renaissance artist and scientist, Leonardo da Vinci, the DAVINCI+ mission will bring the technologies of the 21st century to the world. DAVINCI+ may reveal whether Earth’s sister planet looked like Earth’s twin planet in a more distant, possibly hospitable past with oceans and continents. credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

The mission’s carrier, the Relay and Imaging Spacecraft (CRIS), carries two onboard instruments that will study the planet’s clouds and map its highland regions during its flybys of Venus and a small descent probe with five instruments. Which will provide a mix of new measurements at very high precision during the descent to the hellish Venus surface.

Lead author Jim Garvin said, “This ensemble of chemistry, environmental and lineage imaging data will paint a picture of the layered Venus atmosphere and how it interacts with the surface in the mountains of Alpha Regio, which are twice the size of Texas.” ” The paper in the journal Planetary Science and DAVINCI principal investigator from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “These measurements will allow us to evaluate historical aspects of the atmosphere as well as detect particular rock types on the surface, such as granite, while looking for telltale landscape features that can tell us about erosion or other formal processes.” can.”

DAVINCI probe near Venus's surface

DAVINCI will send a meter-diameter probe to quantify the high temperatures and pressures near the surface of Venus, in order to detect the near-surface atmosphere from above the clouds in a region that was a past continent. During its final kilometer of free-fall descent (artist’s impression shown here), the probe will capture spectacular images and chemistry measurements of the deepest atmosphere on Venus for the first time. credit: NASA/GSFC/CI Labs

DAVINCI will use three Venus gravity assists, which save fuel by using the planet’s gravity to change the speed and/or direction of the CRIS flight system. The first two gravity assists will set CRIS to perform remote sensing in ultraviolet and near-infrared light for the Venus flyby, yielding more than 60 gigabits of new data about the atmosphere and surface. The third will set up the Venus Gravity Assist spacecraft to release probes for Earth entry, descent, science and touchdown, plus follow-on transmission.

The first flyby of Venus will take place six and a half months after launch and under ideal lighting at “high noon” it will take two years to probe the conditions for entry into the atmosphere above Alpha Regio, with the goal of measuring the landscape. Venus on a scale ranging from 328 feet (100 m) to finer than a meter. Such scales enable lander-style geologic studies in the mountains of Venus without the need for landing.

DAVINCI Deep Atmosphere Probe Descends Through Venus's Dense Carbon Dioxide Atmosphere

The DAVINCI Deep Atmosphere probe descends through Venus’s dense carbon dioxide atmosphere toward the Alpha Regio mountains. credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

Once the CRIS system is about two days away from Venus, the probe flight system will be locked securely inside with a titanium three-foot (one meter) diameter probe. The probe will begin interacting with Venus’ upper atmosphere about 75 miles (120 kilometers) above the surface. The science probe will begin science observations after closing its heat shield about 42 miles (67 kilometers) above the surface. With the heatshield jettison, the probe’s inlet will ingest atmospheric gas samples for the kind of detailed chemistry measurements that are made[{” attribute=””>Mars with the Curiosity rover. During its hour-long descent to the surface, the probe will also acquire hundreds of images as soon as it emerges under the clouds at around 100,000 feet (30,500 meters) above the local surface.

“The probe will touch-down in the Alpha Regio mountains but is not required to operate once it lands, as all of the required science data will be taken before reaching the surface.” said Stephanie Getty, deputy principal investigator from Goddard. “If we survive the touchdown at about 25 miles per hour (12 meters/second), we could have up to 17-18 minutes of operations on the surface under ideal conditions.”

DAVINCI is tentatively scheduled to launch June 2029 and enter the Venusian atmosphere in June 2031.

“No previous mission within the Venus atmosphere has measured the chemistry or environments at the detail that DAVINCI’s probe can do,” said Garvin. “Furthermore, no previous Venus mission has descended over the tesserae highlands of Venus, and none have conducted descent imaging of the Venus surface. DAVINCI will build on what Huygens probe did at Titan and improve on what previous in situ Venus missions have done, but with 21st century capabilities and sensors.”

Reference: “Revealing the Mysteries of Venus: The DAVINCI Mission” by James B. Garvin, Stephanie A. Getty, Giada N. Arney, Natasha M. Johnson, Erika Kohler, Kenneth O. Schwer, Michael Sekerak, Arlin Bartels, Richard S. Saylor, Vincent E. Elliott, 24 May 2022, The Planetary Science Journal.
DOI: 10.3847/PSJ/ac63c2

NASA Goddard is the principal investigator institution for DAVINCI and will perform project management for the mission, provide science instruments as well as project systems engineering to develop the probe flight system. Goddard also leads the project science support team with an external science team from across the US. Discovery Program class missions like DAVINCI complement NASA’s larger “flagship” planetary science explorations, with the goal of achieving outstanding results by launching more smaller missions using fewer resources and shorter development times. They are managed for NASA’s Planetary Science Division by the Planetary Missions Program Office at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

Major partners for DAVINCI are Lockheed Martin, Denver, Colorado, The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego, California, NASA’s Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia, NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Federal Airfield in California’s Silicon Valley, and KinetX, Inc., Tempe, Arizona, as well as the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

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