Three missions from Earth are presently headed to Mars. However some scientists are saying it is time to go to Venus, regardless of all of the challenges in heading to Earth’s poisonous, volcanic planetary neighbor.
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
Proper now, three missions from Earth are headed to the planet Mars. However some planetary scientists say the time has come to have a look at one other of Earth’s neighbors – Venus. NPR’s Geoff Brumfiel has extra on why Venus is getting consideration.
GEOFF BRUMFIEL, BYLINE: Venus is definitely the primary planet the place people ever landed a probe.
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BRUMFIEL: Fifty years in the past, the Soviet Union despatched its Venera 7 lander by Venus’ clouds.
MARTHA GILMORE: The Venus environment is so thick, it is nearly like you possibly can float down. It is thick sufficient that you may simply kind of gently land on the floor.
BRUMFIEL: Martha Gilmore is a planetary scientist at Wesleyan College who research Venus. The touchdown was clean. However after that, it bought robust. The probe confronted pressures like these deep underneath the ocean, temperatures of round 900 Fahrenheit. It solely lasted about an hour and a half.
GILMORE: Earlier than struggling what we name a thermal dying.
BRUMFIEL: That is science converse for saying it fried on Venus’ harsh floor. However the knowledge it despatched again mixed with knowledge from different landers and orbiting satellites that went to Venus in later many years have taught us so much concerning the planet. And scientists now imagine that a number of billion years in the past, Venus would have appeared very totally different.
SARA SEAGER: Venus began out, all of us imagine, as, like, a pleasing place…
BRUMFIEL: Sara Seager is at MIT.
SEAGER: …With good temperatures on the floor, with a liquid water ocean like Earth nonetheless has immediately. Perhaps it had blue skies and water clouds. After which one thing went horribly unsuitable with Venus.
BRUMFIEL: The most effective guess is that carbon dioxide from volcanoes on the floor triggered a runaway greenhouse impact. That, mixed with Venus’ nearness to the solar, made it get hotter. Oceans evaporated, and it warmed nonetheless extra till it turned the recent, hostile Venus we see immediately. Sue Smrekar is a senior analysis scientist with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. She presently helps lead a small mission on the floor of Mars, however she’d additionally prefer to get again to Venus.
SUE SMREKAR: Generally, folks ask me – I get tongue-tied as a result of I really feel like there’s, like, so many causes to go to Venus.
BRUMFIEL: Volcanoes, geology. However for Smrekar, it actually comes right down to Venus’ resemblance to the Earth.
SMREKAR: How did these two planets which are so comparable in dimension, distance from the solar and doubtless very a lot alike originally of their evolution – how did they change into so totally different?
BRUMFIEL: And Martha Gilmore says the most important query of all is – may life have began on Venus prefer it did on Earth?
GILMORE: I imply, that is the query we now have of all the worlds within the photo voltaic system that we discover. Was it liveable? After which what follows is – was it inhabited?
BRUMFIEL: With revelations about historic oceans, the reply to that first query is leaning in direction of sure. And only recently, there was a discovering that urged life would possibly reside on Venus immediately. Sara Seager and collaborators discovered proof of a chemical known as phosphine within the environment, one thing that could possibly be defined by microbes residing within the clouds of Venus. Seager says the phosphine sign remains to be tentative and must be adopted up. However Gilmore says whatever the end result, the analysis has targeted folks’s consideration on Venus.
GILMORE: I’m comfortable that we have all thought exhausting about Venus and about this risk. That is how science ought to work. So let’s go to Venus. Let’s go.
BRUMFIEL: There are actually a number of missions being proposed to go to Venus; though, a few of these missions are in competitors with journeys to different cool locations – moons of Jupiter and Neptune. NASA may make a ultimate resolution as quickly as early subsequent 12 months.
Geoff Brumfiel, NPR Information.
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