“Some of the answers lie on Earth, but some lie on Venus,” said Dr. Wilson said.
EnVision will study the mysteries with a series advanced scientific instruments. Its radar systems will peek through Venus’ thick atmosphere and map both the surface and the rocky layers up to 3,300 feet below the surface. A series of spectrometers seen in ultraviolet and infrared light will analyze the chemical composition of the atmosphere and distinguish between types of rocks on the ground. An experiment with radio science could use minor changes in the gravitational pull of the planet to analyze the layer cake structure of Venus’ geological guts.
All of these tools will help answer another important question. “Is Venus alive or dead, geologically?” Dr. Wilson said. Venus, a world dominated by volcanoes and eruptive graffiti, had a geological hyperactive past. Although most scientists suspect that Venus is still erupting today, the thick cloud cover prevented the confirmation of the idea, just as it hindered the search for a major earth-shaking motion of error.
By conducting surgical scientific surveys on specific parts of the planet, EnVision can completely eliminate this uncertainty. It can detect the thermal signatures of active volcanoes, sniff out the gaseous plumes from any erupting volcanoes, and search for evidence of continuous tectonic back and forth.
The spacecraft will also be able to look into Venus’ past, looking for the scar tissue left behind by ancient plate tectonics and the remnants of the epic, primeval volcanic activity – the kind that some suspect caused the runaway greenhouse effect. the planet dried up. It will also explore the tesserae, curious plateaus that rise above plains of younger lava. Some believe that it may appear deformed low continental rock. If this is the case, it means that they formed in the presence of liquid water – even more evidence that Venus was once an ocean world.
As skilled as these three missions are, they will not solve all of Venus’ mysteries, such as whether phosphine, a gas that may be present in the planet’s clouds, is produced by microbial life.
But the hope is that this is the beginning of a second Venus renaissance. “This is the basis for continuous exploration of Venus,” Dr. Byrne said, and only a long series of missions to Venus – from more orbits and probes to atmospheric balloons and landers – will let us discover why it became the earth’s evil twin.