NASA has selected the DAVINCI+ (Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble-gases, Chemistry and Imaging +) mission as part of its Discovery program, and it will be the first spacecraft to enter the Venus atmosphere since NASA’s Pioneer Venus in 1978 and USSR’s Vega in 1985. Named for visionary Renaissance artist and scientist, Leonardo da Vinci, the DAVINCI+ mission will bring twenty-first century technologies to the world next door. DAVINCI+ may reveal whether Earth’s sister planet looked more like Earth’s twin planet in a distant, possibly hospitable past with oceans and continents. The mission combines a spacecraft, developed by Lockheed-Martin, and a descent probe, developed at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. The spacecraft will map the cloud motions and surface composition of mountainous regions, including the Australia-sized Ishtar Terra. The descent probe will take a daring hour-long plunge through the massive and largely unexplored atmosphere to the surface, making detailed measurements of the atmosphere and surface the whole way down. These measurements include atmospheric samples and images that will allow scientists to deduce the planet’s history, its possible watery past, and trace gases as fingerprints of the planet’s inner workings. The probe will descend over Alpha Regio, an intriguing highland terrain known as a “tessera” standing nearly 10,000 feet tall above the surrounding plains, which might be a remnant of an ancient continent. All of these measurements will help connect Earth’s next door neighbor to similar planets orbiting other stars that may be observed with the James Webb Space Telescope.
The DAVINCI+ team spans NASA centers (Goddard Space Flight Center, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Langley Research Center, Ames Research Center), aerospace partners (Lockheed Martin), and Universities (University of Michigan) to deliver ground-breaking science during the late 2020’s and early 2030’s with a launch in 2029, flybys of Venus in 2030, probe-based measurements in June 2031. The information sent back to Earth will rewrite the textbooks and inspire the next generation of planetary scientists. The NASA Goddard led team includes Principal Investigator Jim Garvin and Deputy Principal Investigators Stephanie Getty and Giada Arney, as well as Project Manager Ken Schwer, lead Systems Engineer Michael Sekerak, and many others at Goddard, Lockheed Martin, and at other institutions. The team is excited to return NASA to Venus to address our sister planet’s long-standing mysteries!