NASA maps return to Venus amid new interest in space exploration

An undated composite image of Venus, Earth’s closest neighbor.


Nasa / Reuters

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration said it had earmarked the first billion dollars to send America’s first probes to Venus in more than 30 years, an effort to study what made Earth’s closest neighbor inhospitable to the life.

NASA said on Wednesday it had chosen Lockheed Martin Corp.

build and operate two new spacecraft to study the geology of the planet and an atmosphere shaped by an uncontrollable greenhouse effect. Scientists believe what might have been oceans on Venus evaporated, while an Earth-like climate deteriorated to leave a surface temperature high enough to melt lead.

Lockheed Martin plans to launch the spacecraft in 2026 and 2030, respectively, and both to operate under NASA’s scalable public-private partnership model, similar to its plans to send astronauts back to the moon later this decade.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson announced the Venus missions in Washington on Wednesday.


Alexandre Drago / Reuters

The plans for both programs come as NASA draws political and public capital for a space exploration renaissance. It celebrated the successful launch of US astronauts on domestic rockets for the first time in over a decade and the landing of the Perseverance rover on Mars.

“We are ushering in a new decade of Venus to understand how an Earth-like planet can become a greenhouse,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA associate administrator for science.

Write to Doug Cameron at [email protected]

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