“Some of the answers are on Earth, but some are on Venus,” said Dr. Wilson.
EnVision will investigate these mysteries with a suite of advanced scientific instruments. Its radar systems will scan Venus’ thick atmosphere, mapping both the surface and rock layers up to 3,300 feet below the surface. An array of spectrometers seeing in ultraviolet and infrared light will analyze the chemical composition of the atmosphere and differentiate between types of rocks on the ground. A radio science experiment will be able to use small changes in the planet’s gravity to analyze the layered structure of Venus’ geological bowels.
All these instruments will answer another major question. “Is Venus alive or dead, geologically?” Dr Wilson said. Venus, a world dominated by volcanoes and eruptive graffiti, clearly had a geologically hyperactive past. Although most scientists suspect that Venus is still erupting today, the thick cloud cover prevented confirmation of this idea, just as it had prevented the search for the revealing movement of the faults.
By conducting scientific surgical investigations on specific parts of the planet, EnVision will be able to completely dispel this uncertainty. It can detect thermal signatures of active volcanoes, sniff gas plumes from any erupting volcano, and look for evidence of ongoing tectonic back-and-forth.
The spacecraft will also be able to scan Venus’ past, looking for scar tissue left behind by ancient plate tectonics and relics of its epic, primordial volcanic activity – the kind some suspect may have sparked the greenhouse effect that dried up planet. He will also study the tesserae, curious plateaus that rise above plains of younger lava. Some believe that they may be deformed layers of continent-like rock. If so, it means they formed in the presence of liquid water – further evidence that Venus was once an ocean world.
As capable as these three missions are, they won’t solve all the mysteries of Venus, as if phosphine, a gas potentially found in the planet’s clouds, is made by microbial life.
But the hope is that this will be the start of a second Venusian rebirth. “This sets the stage for a sustained exploration of Venus,” said Dr Byrne, and only an extended series of missions to Venus – from orbiters and probes to balloons and atmospheric landers – will allow us to find out why she became the twin. evil of the Earth.