NASA is considering approving up to two planetary missions from four projects reviewed by next April, including scientists involved in the project, including Venus, who say it could help determine whether the planet sustains life or not.
On Monday an international research team described evidence of microorganisms living in the highly acidic Venus clouds: traces of phosphine, a gas produced on Earth by bacteria that live in oxygen-free environments.
This provided strong potential sources for extraterrestrial life.
In February the US space agency listed four proposed missions, which are now being reviewed by the NASA team, two of which include robotic probes for Venus. One of them, called DAVINCI +, will send a probe into the Venus atmosphere.
“The logic of choosing if you are somewhat motivated by wanting to follow this is Da Vinci – because the way to follow this is to actually go out there and see what’s going on in the atmosphere,” David Greenspoon, a working astronaut, told Reuters on Tuesday on the DAVINCI + program.
The other three projects are as follows: IVO, a mission to Jupiter’s volcanic moon Io; Trident, Neptune A fly-trek to map the icy moon Triton; And Veritas is the second of the proposed Venus missions to focus on understanding the geographical history of the planet. NASA says it can choose one or two passengers.
The search for life elsewhere in the solar system has not yet focused on Venus. In July, NASA launched the next-generation rover to search for possible clues to past life on Mars.
In light of Monday’s findings, NASA executive Jim Friedenstein said it was “time to prioritize Venus”.
In a statement, Bridenstein said the selection process for new potential trips would be difficult “but I know the process will be fair and impartial.”
Greenspoon, a senior scientist at the Planetary Science Institute, said the selection process should respond to the latest scientific discoveries.
“If Triton had a purpose as a finalist, and someone noticed with a telescope, you know, a football field in Triton, then arguably yes, we should send a trip there,” Greenspoon said.
Australian Associated Press