The US space agency NASA is planning planetary missions to Venus. This comes after the discovery of signs of life on the planet which is second from the Sun. The planet is often described as inhospitable for life because of its extreme conditions. The agency is planning to approve two such Venus-bound missions. The approval for missions could come as early by April next year. These two missions will be selected from the four proposals that are currently under review. One of the two missions will tell scientists whether the planet can harbor life. Venus has never been a subject of detailed study because of the planet’s extreme temperature and unfavorable atmosphere.
A team of researchers recently claimed to detect evidence that could support life on Venus. The team said there are microbes residing in Venus’ atmosphere. They detected phosphine – a smelly and flammable gas. The atmosphere of Venus is very harsh. It consists mainly of carbon dioxide. It is full of acidic clouds. The latest discovery hints that microbes may inhabit. Phosphine is commonly produced in industrial processes. It is also made by some species of bacteria that can survive in the absence of oxygen. It is highly toxic to humans. The atmospheric conditions of Venus make it a lesser topic for scientists to search for life beyond Earth.
The agency had in February this year shortlisted four proposed planetary science missions. The agency is currently studying the feasibility of proposals for further development. Two proposals involve robotic probes to Venus. They are DAVINCI+ and VERITAS. DAVINCI+ will involve sending a probe into the Venus atmosphere. VERITAS will focus on understanding its geological history. Past studies concluded that Venus has a thick atmosphere that traps the Sun’s heat. This causes an immense increase in temperature. It goes beyond 470 degrees Celsius. Venus is just prior to Earth. Its structure is similar to Earth. But it terms of size, it is slightly smaller than Earth.