Thursday, March 26, 2009

Balloons to Venus

NASA is looking for its next flagship planetary mission after 2020's mission to Jupiter and its moons, and it looks like Venus might be the best candidate. An advisory team has released plans for a multi-billion-dollar mission to send balloons, landers, and an orbiter to Venus within the next fifteen years. The balloons would be designed to hover high in the planet's atmosphere, collecting data that might tell us why Venus turned from what was believed to once be a water-rich planet into the sulfuric nightmare it is today. In addition to telling us more about our solar system, Venus' similarity to Earth in terms of size and distance from the sun makes it a potential analogue for what might happen to us after a cataclysmic impact or whatever it was that ripped away most of Venus' atmosphere. And while three to four billion dollars might sound expensive in this current economic apocalypse, keep in mind that that's the revenue of just a few Rock Band games. More details here.

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