The multi-billion-dollar mission concept – which is being considered for launch in the next fifteen years – could help reveal more about Venus’s runaway greenhouse effect, any oceans it may once have had, and possible ongoing volcanic activity.
It could be the next flagship mission sent to a planet, after a planned mission to Jupiter and its moons set for launch in 2020.
The Venus mission would cost some $3 billion to 4 billion and would launch between 2020 and 2025, according to NASA, which in 2008 tasked a group of scientists and engineers to formulate goals for the mission.
The team’s study, which will be released in April, outlines a plan to study the hazy planet, which has more in common with Earth than any other in terms of distance from the Sun, size and mass, but evolved into an inhospitable world where surface temperatures hover close to 450°C and sulphuric acid rains from the sky.
The team’s mission concept includes one orbiter, two balloons and two short-lived landers, all of which would launch into space on two Atlas V rockets.
“Our understanding of Venus is so low, we really need this armada,” says planetary scientist Mark Bullock of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, one of the team leaders.