NASA announced that four new projects in its Discovery Program will be receiving $3 million each to further develop their projects. The Discovery Program was started by NASA to allow scientists to explore and pitch focused projects that can be implemented at low costs. Some of these projects eventually get taken up by the agency as full-fledged missions, and some will not be chosen to move forward. Here are the four projects that each will be receiving $3 million.
The InSight Mars lander was also the product of a project from the Discovery Program, along with the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbitor. The Discovery Program has led to cost-effective, viable missions in the past.
The first project is called “Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry, and Imaging Plus” (DAVINCI+). The goal of this potential future mission is to analyze the atmosphere of Venus and determine a possible past existence of an ocean in the superhot planet. DAVINCI+ will help scientists understand the formation of Venus. Why learn about Venus? As a neighboring planet, unlocking the past secrets of Venus will help us possibly predict the future of Earth.
The second project is called “Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography, and Spectroscopy” (VERITAS). Being another Venus-focused project, the potential mission would travel to Venus and create 3D maps of its surface. It is very hard to map the planet’s surface from Earth due to its massively think atmosphere – about 90 times more massive than Earth. VERITAS will also track infrared emissions from Venus, again contributing to understanding its geology.
The Io Volcano Observer (IVO) is pretty straight forward. It would travel to Io, one of Jupiter’s 79 known moons, and perform multiple fly-bys where it will collect data on volcanic eruptions on the planet. NASA says this mission will help with the understanding of the formation of rocky bodies in relation to magma.
Trident is not an acronym (surprisingly). The proposed spacecraft will perform multiple fly-bys at planets, visiting Venus, Jupiter, Io, Neptune, and Triton (Neptune’s moon). Now, don’t get confused. Trident will not go to Venus and turn back to Jupiter. Remember, the planets are constantly revolving around the Sun, and different speeds – they are not in a straight line.
Trident’s main focus is to map Triton’s surface, scanning for a sub-surface ocean (under the surface). Triton is an interesting point to study as it is Neptune’s largest moon, also having the possibility of containing an ocean even though it is very far from the Sun.
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