A team of scientists working with NASA is urging the space agency to hash out a flagship mission aimed at exploring Venus. According to the scientists, launching a fully-funded mission to the planet would provide valuable information regarding its mysterious past.
In terms of spaceflight programs, flagship missions are regarded by NASA as top priority and are usually the most expensive expeditions launched by the agency. At the moment, one flagship mission that NASA is currently preparing for is an expedition to Europa, which is an icy moon of Jupiter. For the agency, visiting the moon is vital because it may hold traces of alien life.
Venus's Habitable Past
During a recent meeting by members of the Venus Exploration Analysis Group, which acts as an advisory board for NASA, members of the organization urged the agency to consider visiting Venus through a major mission. For the group, this kind of mission would shed light on the planet's past.
According to numerous studies about the planet, Venus used to be very similar to Earth. Some scientists even believe that the planet's environmental conditions were very ideal to support the presence of life. However, factors such as atmospheric changes and the planet's proximity to the Sun may have transformed Venus into what it is today, which is one of the most inhospitable planets in the galaxy.
Pushing NASA's Mission To Venus
For Martha Gilmore, a mission principal investigator for NASA and a member of the Venus Exploration Analysis Group, sending a flagship mission to Venus could provide the agency with the necessary data to finally unlock the truth regarding Venus' past. Since this planet is often regarded as Earth's twin, finding out why and how Venus transformed could provide clues regarding the changes that the world might go through in the future.
"It's always been important for Venus science; it is getting increasingly important and perhaps accessible and a little bit better understood," Gilmore said during the group's meeting according to Space.com. "If we're going to tackle a problem like this, a flagship could do that."
Allocating Budget For A Venus Mission
Since it would be a flagship mission, Gilmore is aware that it would require substantial funding in order to successfully push through. But instead of asking the agency for a maximum budget, Gilmore decided to present a more realistic value. According to the scientist, presenting a lower budget could guarantee that a proposed mission to Venus wouldn't get shelved in favor of NASA's other flagship projects.
"We want to try to do this for $2 billion," Gilmore said. "Four billion dollars is a lot of money, and we are entering a decade where there are other things that are going to be competing for the money, most notably Europa."