NASA goes to Venus with VERITAS

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FAIRMONT, W.Va. – After the success of the Perseverance Rover landing on Mars in February of 2021, NASA is gearing up for a new project where they will head to the Earth’s sister planet: Venus.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson talks to the agency’s workforce during his first State of NASA event Wednesday, June 2, 2021, at NASA Headquarters Mary W. Jackson Building in Washington. Nelson remarked on his long history with NASA, and among other topics, discussed the agency’s plans for future Earth-focused missions to address climate change and a robotic and human return to the Moon through the Artemis program, as well as announcing two new planetary science missions to Venus – VERITAS and DAVINCI+. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Fairmont native and researcher at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Dr. Caitlin Ahrens, said that one of two missions heading to Venus will be called VERITAS.

“VERITAS stands for Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography and Spectroscopy. This is actually going to be an orbiter, which means that it is going to be a small spacecraft which is going to orbit around Venus,” said Ahrens.

The main purpose of the mission is to look at the atmosphere and cloud system. The InSAR radar cameras will go through the clouds and map as much of the surface as possible.

Illustration of VERITAS using its radar to study Venus. Courtesy: NASA

“It’s going to surpass our data from Magellan which was back in 1989.

Dr. Caitlin Ahrens, NASA GSFC

That was the last time that NASA went to Venus. As technology has changed over the past 32 years, so has the outcome of what we want out of this new mission.

“Venus has always eluded us. We always call Venus as our sister planet; it’s really not that far away from Earth compared to Mars, but Venus offers the past, present and future of planetary science. The past being Venus may have had a flowing ocean, its present that there’s hundreds of volcanos,” said Ahrens.

An illustration of Venus’ volcanoes. Courtesy: NASA

But knowing what we know, we want to figure out how the volcanoes of our future will affect the future of our ozone so that we may learn more about our own planet’s ecosystem.

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