UC Riverside scientists will be part of a larger team assembled by NASA for yearslong research of Venus, including the use of space probes to measure the scorching planet’s atmosphere, it was announced Thursday.
“This is long overdue because we know so little about Venus,” UCR astrobiologist Stephen Kane, who will be part of the research team, said. “It’s possible that Venus is a preview of what Earth could eventually look like.”
NASA said Wednesday that its Discovery Program will feature twin missions to the planet, with probes gauging gas content, mapping the surface and gathering other data. The missions are set between 2028 and 2030. Roughly $1 billion has been allocated for the trips.
According to NASA, Venus has not been examined since the early 1990s.
Kane and another UCR researcher will be assigned to the Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble Gases, Chemistry & Imaging — DAVINCI — team.
“Earth’s plate tectonics and liquid water oceans allow it to recycle carbon from the atmosphere into the planet’s interior, and Venus doesn’t have either of those anymore,” Kane said. “We need to understand the processes that caused it to change.”
The planet’s average temperature is 850 degrees and winds blow about 200 mph, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
“It’s not clear that being closer to the sun was the primary cause of the intemperate environment,” Kane said. “Mercury is even closer than Venus, but Venus is hotter.”
The planet, which closely approximates Earth in size, is virtually encased in clouds of sulfuric gas.
Kane previously conducted research on how Jupiter may have impacted Venus’ orbit.
“I look for Venus analogs,” the professor said. “The only way we’ll understand them is by having deeper insights into our sibling planet.”
>> Want to read more stories like this? Get our Free Daily Newsletters Here!Follow us: