Current Research in EEPS: Dr. Giada Arney, NASA
The DAVINCI Mission: Venus and Connections to Venus-like Planets Beyond the Solar System
NASA’s recently selected DAVINCI mission (Deep Atmosphere of Venus Investigation of Noble Gases, Chemistry, and Imaging) will be the first mission to plunge through the Venus atmosphere since the USSR Vega landers in 1985, providing a new look at Earth’s enigmatic sister planet. Launching in 2029, DAVINCI’s multi-phase mission will begin with two flybys that collect UV and IR remote sensing observations of the planet to study the mysterious “unknown UV absorber” in the clouds and measure IR surface emissivity on the planet’s night side. In 2031, the spacecraft will drop a descent probe into the atmosphere for an hour-long transect; during this descent from ~70 km to the surface, hundreds of measurements of atmospheric structure and composition (including Noble gases and key trace gases) will be collected. Additionally, an on-board Student Collaboration Experiment led by Johns Hopkins University called VfOx will measure oxygen abundances near the surface. At the bottom of the descent sphere, a downward-pointing camera will image the surface terrain with spatial resolution as good as < 0.30 m near the surface. The descent site, Alpha Regio, was selected because remote sensing measurements suggest it may contain remnant rocks from earlier habitable past. Information from DAVINCI on Venus surface composition, together with atmospheric measurements of Noble gases and key isotopes, may help reveal whether Venus was ever truly habitable. Understanding the divergent evolutionary history of Venus and Earth will have implications beyond the solar system as we search for habitable exoplanets: where are the boundaries of habitability, and what factors cause planets to maintain or lose habitability over time? If Venus was ever habitable, could “exo-Venuses” be habitable too? This talk will summarize the DAVINCI mission and its connections beyond the solar system.