NASA’s Venus mission is under threat

The recently submitted draft of the new NASA budget does not actually involve the allocation of funds for the development of the VERITAS mission. According to experts, the lack of funding may lead to the cancellation of the project.

Finding the missing ocean of Venus

The VERITAS mission (Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography, and Spectroscopy) was officially selected for implementation as part of the Discovery program selection in 2021. It is being developed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). Within its framework, an orbiter is supposed to be sent to Venus, which will be engaged in its mapping and study of tectonic processes. It will make a detailed three-dimensional map of the Venusian surface. It would help to answer the question of what the nearest planet was in the distant past and whether it could have an ocean.

The VERITAS spacecraft in the artist’s image. Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech

To fulfill its tasks, VERITAS will be equipped with a powerful radar system and an infrared spectrometer that will allow scientists to look under the cloud cover of the “Morning Star” and determine the composition of its surface. The spacecraft will also study the gravitational field of Venus, which will determine the features of its internal structure.

VERITAS mission problems

Initially, the launch of VERITAS was supposed to take place in 2028. However, last year NASA announced the postponement of the launch for at least three years. This decision was made after identifying problems that arose during the preparation of the Psyche mission. Due to the unavailability of the spacecraft at the right time, JPL was subjected to an independent commission check. Based on the results of its work, a report was published describing the rather serious institutional problems of the organization. Their solution will require the allocation of additional staff and funds. In this situation, JPL decided to donate VERITAS, postponing the implementation of the mission for several years. 

Venus in the artist’s image. Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Peter Rubin

However, the recently published draft of the new NASA budget for 2024 does not actually imply the allocation of funds for the mission. VERITAS will receive only 1.5 million next year, while NASA previously expected to spend USD 56.7 million on its development. And although this is not officially the cancellation of the project, according to many experts, this is actually what we are talking about.

At the same time, it is worth noting that Congress is responsible for the actual allocation of budget funds in the United States. The pressure of the scientific community, dissatisfied with the situation with VERITAS, can change the situation and save the mission. Recent news about the discovery of an active volcano on Venus can also help this.

According to

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