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NASA's DAVINCI Space Probe To Plunge Through Hellish Atmosphere of Venus – SciTechDaily

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NASA’s DAVINCI mission will study the origin, evolution, and present state of Venus in unprecedented detail from near the top of the clouds to the planet’s surface. The mission’s goal is to help answer longstanding questions about our neighboring planet, especially whether Venus was ever wet and habitable like Earth. Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

Last year, NASA selected the DAVINCI mission as part of its Discovery program. It will investigate the origin, evolution, and present state of <span class="glossaryLink" aria-describedby="tt" data-cmtooltip="

Venus
Venus, the second planet from the sun, is named after the Roman goddess of love and beauty. After the moon, it is the second-brightest natural object in the night sky. Its rotation (243 Earth days) takes longer than its orbit of the Sun (224.7 Earth days). It is sometimes called Earth's &quot;sister planet&quot; because of their similar composition, size, mass, and proximity to the Sun. It has no natural satellites.

” data-gt-translate-attributes=”["attribute":"data-cmtooltip", "format":"html"]”>Venus in unparalleled detail from near the top of the clouds to the planet’s surface. Venus, the hottest planet in the solar system, has a thick, toxic atmosphere filled with carbon dioxide and an incredible pressure of pressure is 1,350 psi (93 bar) at the surface.

Named after visionary Renaissance artist and scientist Leonardo da Vinci, the DAVINCI mission Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry, and Imaging will be the first probe to enter the Venus atmosphere since <span class="glossaryLink" aria-describedby="tt" data-cmtooltip="

NASA
Established in 1958, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is an independent agency of the United States Federal Government that succeeded the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). It is responsible for the civilian space program, as well as aeronautics and aerospace research. It's vision is &quot;To discover and expand knowledge for the benefit of humanity.&quot;

” data-gt-translate-attributes=”["attribute":"data-cmtooltip", "format":"html"]”>NASA’s Pioneer Venus in 1978 and USSR’s Vega in 1985. It is scheduled to launch in the late 2020s.

Now, in a recently published paper, NASA scientists and engineers give new details about the agency’s Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry, and Imaging (DAVINCI) mission, which will descend through the layered Venus atmosphere to the surface of the planet in mid-2031. DAVINCI is the first mission to study Venus using both spacecraft flybys and a descent probe.

DAVINCI, a flying analytical chemistry laboratory, will measure critical aspects of Venus’ massive atmosphere-climate system for the first time, many of which have been measurement goals for Venus since the early 1980s. It will also provide the first descent imaging of the mountainous highlands of Venus while mapping their rock composition and surface relief at scales not possible from orbit. The mission supports measurements of undiscovered gases present in small amounts and the deepest atmosphere, including the key ratio of hydrogen isotopes – components of water that help reveal the history of water, either as liquid water oceans or steam within the early atmosphere.

[embedded content]
NASA has selected the DAVINCI+ (Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble-gases, Chemistry and Imaging +) mission as part of its Discovery program, and it will be the first probe to enter the Venus atmosphere since NASA’s Pioneer Venus in 1978 and USSR’s Vega in 1985. Named for visionary Renaissance artist and scientist, Leonardo da Vinci, the DAVINCI+ mission will bring 21st-century technologies to the world next door. DAVINCI+ may reveal whether Earth’s sister planet looked more like Earth’s twin planet in a distant, possibly hospitable past with oceans and continents. Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

The mission’s carrier, relay, and imaging spacecraft (CRIS) has two onboard instruments that will study the planet’s clouds and map its highland areas during flybys of Venus and will also drop a small descent probe with five instruments that will provide a medley of new measurements at very high precision during its descent to the hellish Venus surface.

“This ensemble of chemistry, environmental, and descent imaging data will paint a picture of the layered Venus atmosphere and how it interacts with the surface in the mountains of Alpha Regio, which is twice the size of Texas,” said Jim Garvin, lead author of the paper in the Planetary Science Journal and DAVINCI principal investigator from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “These measurements will allow us to evaluate historical aspects of the atmosphere as well as detect special rock types at the surface such as granites while also looking for tell-tale landscape features that could tell us about erosion or other formational processes.”

DAVINCI Probe Near Venus Surface

DAVINCI will send a meter-diameter probe to brave the high temperatures and pressures near Venus’ surface to explore the atmosphere from above the clouds to near the surface of a terrain that may have been a past continent. During its final kilometers of free-fall descent (artist’s impression shown here), the probe will capture spectacular images and chemistry measurements of the deepest atmosphere on Venus for the first time. Credit: NASA/GSFC/CI Labs

DAVINCI will make use of three Venus gravity assists, which save fuel by using the planet’s gravity to change the speed and/or direction of the CRIS flight system. The first two gravity assists will set CRIS up for a Venus flyby to perform remote sensing in the ultraviolet and the near infrared light, acquiring over 60 gigabits of new data about the atmosphere and surface. The third Venus gravity assist will set up the spacecraft to release the probe for entry, descent, science, and touchdown, plus follow-on transmission to Earth.

The first flyby of Venus will be six and half months after launch and it will take two years to get the probe into position for entry into the atmosphere over Alpha Regio under ideal lighting at “high noon,” with the goal of measuring the landscapes of Venus at scales ranging from 328 feet (100 meters) down to finer than one meter. Such scales enable lander-style geologic studies in the mountains of Venus without requiring landing.

DAVINCI Deep Atmosphere Probe Descends Through Dense Carbon Dioxide Atmosphere of Venus

The DAVINCI deep atmosphere probe descends through the dense carbon dioxide atmosphere of Venus towards the Alpha Regio mountains. Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

Once the CRIS system is about two days away from Venus, the probe flight system will be released along with the titanium three foot (one meter) diameter probe safely encased inside. The probe will begin to interact with the Venus upper atmosphere at about 75 miles (120 kilometers) above the surface. The science probe will commence science observations after jettisoning its heat shield around 42 miles (67 kilometers) above the surface. With the heatshield jettisoned, the probe’s inlets will ingest atmospheric gas samples for detailed chemistry measurements of the sort that have been made on <span class="glossaryLink" aria-describedby="tt" data-cmtooltip="

Mars
Mars is the second smallest planet in our solar system and the fourth planet from the sun. Iron oxide is prevalent in Mars' surface resulting in its reddish color and its nickname &quot;The Red Planet.&quot; Mars' name comes from the Roman god of war.

” data-gt-translate-attributes=”["attribute":"data-cmtooltip", "format":"html"]”>Mars with the Curiosity rover. During its hour-long descent to the surface, the probe will also acquire hundreds of images as soon as it emerges under the clouds at around 100,000 feet (30,500 meters) above the local surface.

“The probe will touch-down in the Alpha Regio mountains but is not required to operate once it lands, as all of the required science data will be taken before reaching the surface.” said Stephanie Getty, deputy principal investigator from Goddard. “If we survive the touchdown at about 25 miles per hour (12 meters/second), we could have up to 17-18 minutes of operations on the surface under ideal conditions.”

DAVINCI is tentatively scheduled to launch June 2029 and enter the Venusian atmosphere in June 2031.

“No previous mission within the Venus atmosphere has measured the chemistry or environments at the detail that DAVINCI’s probe can do,” said Garvin. “Furthermore, no previous Venus mission has descended over the tesserae highlands of Venus, and none have conducted descent imaging of the Venus surface. DAVINCI will build on what Huygens probe did at Titan and improve on what previous in situ Venus missions have done, but with 21st century capabilities and sensors.”

Reference: “Revealing the Mysteries of Venus: The DAVINCI Mission” by James B. Garvin, Stephanie A. Getty, Giada N. Arney, Natasha M. Johnson, Erika Kohler, Kenneth O. Schwer, Michael Sekerak, Arlin Bartels, Richard S. Saylor, Vincent E. Elliott, 24 May 2022, The Planetary Science Journal.
DOI: 10.3847/PSJ/ac63c2

NASA Goddard is the principal investigator institution for DAVINCI and will perform project management for the mission, provide science instruments as well as project systems engineering to develop the probe flight system. Goddard also leads the project science support team with an external science team from across the US. Discovery Program class missions like DAVINCI complement NASA’s larger “flagship” planetary science explorations, with the goal of achieving outstanding results by launching more smaller missions using fewer resources and shorter development times. They are managed for NASA’s Planetary Science Division by the Planetary Missions Program Office at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

Major partners for DAVINCI are Lockheed Martin, Denver, Colorado, The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego, California, NASA’s Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia, NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Federal Airfield in California’s Silicon Valley, and KinetX, Inc., Tempe, Arizona, as well as the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

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5 planets align in night sky for first time in years – CTV News

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A rare, five-planet alignment will peak on June 24, allowing a spectacular viewing of Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn as they line up in planetary order.

The event began at the beginning of June and has continued to get brighter and easier to see as the month has progressed, according to Diana Hannikainen, observing editor of Sky & Telescope.

A waning crescent moon will be joining the party between Venus and Mars on Friday, adding another celestial object to the lineup. The moon will represent the Earth’s relative position in the alignment, meaning this is where our planet will appear in the planetary order.

This rare phenomenon has not occurred since December 2004, and this year, the distance between Mercury and Saturn will be smaller, according to Sky & Telescope.

HOW TO VIEW THE ALIGNMENT

Stargazers will need to have a clear view of the eastern horizon to spot the incredible phenomenon, Hannikainen said. Humans can view the planetary show with the naked eye, but binoculars are recommended for an optimal viewing experience, she added.

The best time to view the five planets is in the one hour before sunrise, she said. The night before you plan to view the alignment, check when the sun will rise in your area.

Some stargazers are especially excited for the celestial event, including Hannikainen. She flew from her home west of Boston to a beachside town along the Atlantic Ocean to secure an optimal view of the alignment.

“I’ll be out there with my binoculars, looking towards the east and southeast and crossing all my fingers and toes that it is going to be clear,” Hannikainen said.

You don’t have to travel to catch a glimpse of the action because it will be visible to people around the globe.

Stargazers in the Northern Hemisphere can see the planets from the eastern to southeastern horizon while those in the Southern Hemisphere should look along the eastern to northeastern horizon. The only requirement is a clear sky in the direction of the alignment.

By the next day, the moon will have continued its orbit around the Earth, moving it out of alignment with the planets, she said.

If you miss the five-planet alignment in sequential order, the next one will happen in 2040, according to Sky & Telescope.

There will be seven more full moons in 2022, according to The Old Farmers’ Almanac:

  • June 14: Strawberry moon
  • July 13: Buck moon
  • Aug. 11: Sturgeon moon
  • Sept. 10: Harvest moon
  • Oct. 9: Hunter’s moon
  • Nov. 8: Beaver moon
  • Dec. 7: Cold moon

These are the popularized names associated with the monthly full moons, but the significance of each one may vary across Native American tribes.

LUNAR AND SOLAR ECLIPSES

There will be one more total lunar eclipse and a partial solar eclipse in 2022, according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac.

Partial solar eclipses occur when the moon passes in front of the sun but only blocks some of its light. Be sure to wear proper eclipse glasses to safely view solar eclipses, as the sun’s light can be damaging to the eye.

A partial solar eclipse on Oct. 25 will be visible to those in Greenland, Iceland, Europe, northeastern Africa, the Middle East, western Asia, India and western China. Neither of the partial solar eclipses will be visible from North America.

A total lunar eclipse will also be on display for those in Asia, Australia, the Pacific, South America and North America on Nov. 8 between 3:01 a.m. ET and 8:58 a.m. ET — but the moon will be setting for those in eastern regions of North America.

METEOR SHOWERS

Check out the remaining 11 showers that will peak in 2022:

  • Southern delta Aquariids: July 29-30
  • Alpha Capricornids: July 30-31
  • Perseids: Aug. 11-12
  • Orionids: Oct. 20-21
  • Southern Taurids: Nov. 4-5
  • Northern Taurids: Nov. 11-12
  • Leonids: Nov. 17-18
  • Geminids: Dec. 13-14
  • Ursids: Dec. 21-22

If you live in an urban area, you may want to drive to a place that isn’t littered with city lights to get the best view.

Find an open area with a wide view of the sky. Make sure you have a chair or blanket so you can look straight up. And give your eyes about 20 to 30 minutes — without looking at your phone or other electronics — to adjust to the darkness so the meteors will be easier to spot.

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June 25: The Quirks & Quarks listener question show – CBC.ca

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We end our season with our ever-popular, always riveting Quirks & Quarks Listener Question Show

Evelyn Campbell in Vancouver, British Columbia asks: If you were out in space and died, would your body decompose?

For the answer we reached out to Daryl Haggard, an astronomer in the Department of Physics at McGill University and the McGill Space Institute. She explained there aren’t any microbes in space that would act to decompose your body, although it would persist in a ‘freeze-dried’ state.

If you were to die in space, your body would not decompose, even inside a spacesuit. (NASA)

Bernie Buzik from Wainwright, Alberta asks: Why are there concentrations of metals in some areas and not others around the world? Basically — why is there not a concentration of gold in my backyard?

For the answer we turned to Peter Hollings, an NOHFC Industrial Research Chair in Mineral Exploration in the Department of Geology at Lakehead University. He says that where minerals get deposited depends on complex geological processes, and which metals collect in which places has to do with the physical and chemical conditions particular to those substances, which result in concentrations of different metals in different parts of the world.

A man with a metal pan standing in a rocky stream
An amateur gold digger pans for gold near Mercenac in France. (Georges Gobet/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

Bob Ennenberg from Vancouver, B.C. asks: Why can’t the immune system get rid of the herpes viruses like it can with other viruses? 

According to Jennifer Corcoran, a virologist at the University of Calgary, herpes viruses have a unique ability to hide from the immune system, whether it’s the chickenpox virus that can later manifest as shingles or one of the herpes simplex viruses that cause recurring mouth or genital sores. Until some kind of stress triggers their reactivation, the viruses essentially remain invisible by not making viral proteins that would otherwise alert the immune system to their presence. 

A man with a rash on his back
The herpes virus family includes herpes simplex, which can cause cold sores, and varicella, which causes chickenpox and shingles. These viruses can hide from the immune system in nerve cells. (Shutterstock)

Bill Yates from Lethbridge, Alta. asks: If space is at absolute zero, and the Earth has been racing through it for millions of years, how does the centre of the Earth maintain its heat to remain molten?

There are two reasons why the Earth’s core remains molten under these conditions according to Jesse Rogerson, an astronomer and astrophysicist from York University in Toronto. One is that heat does not escape the planet because the geological plates that cover the surface act as a giant insulating blanket. And the other reason is that the decay  or radioactive elements within the Earth provides a constant source of heat.

A cutaway illustration of the Earth's layers down to the core
This illustration shows a cross-section of the varying layers of the Earth. (Goddard Media Studios/NASA)

Sheena Sharp in Toronto, Ontario asks: Why is poop brown in most animals, but white in birds?

For the answer we asked Emma Allen-Vercoe, a professor and Canada Research Chair in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology at the University of Guelph. She says it comes down to how birds get rid of waste. They only have one waste oriface, called a cloaca, and their equivalent of pee is a white pasty substance. They mostly excrete their poop and pee at the same time, all mixed up in one gross mess.

A bird of prey standing on the bird-poop covered head of a statue
Bird poop includes a white pasty substance that is the equivalent of mammalian urine. (Yawar Nazir/Getty Images)

Doug McDougall, an expat Canadian living in Newcastle, California asks: I watched [the documentary] “The Octopus Teacher” a while ago and I was just really curious: what possible evolutionary advantage can there be to having this animal only laying one batch of eggs before they self-destruct?

To find out why octopus mothers die soon after laying her eggs, we went to Stefan Linquist, an associate professor of philosophy at the University of Guelph who specializes in ecology and genomics and has an interest in octopuses. He said female octopuses stop hunting and eating in order to protecting their eggs from predators and give them best chance of surviving into adulthood, maximizing the chance that her lineage will survive.

A close up image of an octopus's eye
The Netflix documentary, The Octopus Teacher, tells the story of the year Craig Foster spent with a wild octopus. (Craig Foster/Sea Change Project/Netflix)

James Schoening from Vancouver, B.C. asks: Animations for the new James Webb Space Telescope show that it’s orbiting an empty point in space called the Lagrange 2 Point. How can it do this if there is no actual mass there to gravitationally attract it?

To help explain this far out question, we went to Nathalie Ouellette, an astrophysicist at the University of Montreal and the outreach scientist for the James Webb Space Telescope in Canada. She said to imagine spacetime in the solar system as a big rubber sheet with a big dip in the middle for the Sun and another for Earth that follows its groove all the way around the Sun. The Lagrange points are like flat areas on that rubber sheet where an object like the telescope can stay, like a parking spot in space. 

An animation of a space telescope circling around the sun.
Animation of the James Webb Space Telescope’s orbit at the Lagrange 2 point. (GSFC/NASA)

Bill Bean from Kitchener, Ont. asks: The lack of memory of our first years of life is explained, by some, as infantile amnesia. Yet many things learned in this period, like how to speak and how to walk, are not forgotten. Why are some toddler events wiped clean from memory?

We spoke with Myra Fernandes, a professor in cognitive neuroscience at the University of Waterloo. She says the main theory is that the hippocampus, which is where memories are stored, just isn’t developed enough to consolidate memories at that age. Also, at that age the brain is primed to learn through repetition, like how we learn to walk and talk, rather than preserving unique details from a single event. 

A toddler in a shopping cart
We don’t tend to remember things from our early childhood because the part of the brain where memories are consolidated isn’t fully formed yet. (Pavel L Photo and Video/Shutterstock)

Elva Kellington from Salt Spring Island, B.C. asks: Is there any similarity in the spinning water around a drain when the plug is pulled, a hurricane and the rotating stars around the black hole in our Milky Way galaxy?

For this mind twister, we spoke with Hari Kunduri, a mathematician at Memorial University of Newfoundland who’s moving to McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. He said the angular momentum of each of these systems remains constant, so just as spinning figure skaters speed up when they pull in their arms, the material spinning around the central axis in these systems also speeds up the closer it gets to the point it’s spinning around.

whirlpools in the ocean off a coastline
Spinning whirlpools are seen following the 2011 tsunami and earthquake off the coast of Fukushima, Japan. (Yomiuri/Reuters)

Anna-Marie Weiler in Ottawa, Ont. asks: Humans have a coccyx, also known as a vestigial tail. Did we once have a tail, and if so, when did we lose it?

Caroline Parins-Fukuchi from the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Toronto explains that the coccyx is part of our tail bone, which is really a tail, just a short one. We need to go back at least 20 million years to find a common ancestor of all apes, including us, with traditional long tail. 

This photograph shows a piece from a 2021 exhibition in Madrid, “Body Worlds, el ritmo de la vida” by German anatomist Gunther von Hagens. You can see the small triangular-shaped bone known as a coccyx at the base of the spinal column through the skeleton’s pelvis bones. (Oscar Del Pozo/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

(Online and podcast only)

Jane Sly from Ottawa, Ont. asks: How much protection from concussions can we get from helmets? 

For the answer, we went to Blaine Hoshizaki, the director of the University of Ottawa’s Neurotrauma Impact Science Laboratory. He says traditional rigid foam cycling helmets were only designed to break apart upon impact to prevent catastrophic brain injuries, not concussions, unlike today’s hockey and football helmets that tend to have softer interior materials with some degree of concussion protection. 

Miami Dolphin players perform practice drills while wearing extra helmet protection to prevent concussion injuries during their 2021 training camp in Miami. (Mark Brown/Getty Images)

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NASA determines Space Launch System testing complete – Yahoo Canada Finance

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The testing campaign for NASA’s super big, super expensive Space Launch System is now complete, the agency declared on Friday. All that’s left now for the rocket is launch the Artemis I demonstration mission to the moon, the first in a long line of planned missions to eventually return humans to the lunar surface by the middle of the decade. The launch could occur as soon as late August, NASA officials said.

The agency will roll the 322-foot-tall rocket and Orion spacecraft back to the Vehicle Assembly Building, an assembly hangar at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, on July 1 or 2, where both will be prepared for launch. From there, the agency will have roughly six to eight weeks of work before what should be the final roll-out, John Blevins, chief engineer of the Space Launch System Program, said Friday. Once SLS is back on the launch pad, officials would spend around 10-14 days preparing for liftoff, Cliff Lanham, senior vehicle operations manager for exploration ground systems, added.

NASA declared the “wet dress rehearsal” (WDR), as the slew of tests is called, complete despite a hydrogen leak issue that caused launch controllers to halt the countdown at T-29 seconds (officials aimed to count down to T-9.34 seconds, right before engine ignition).

The leak was detected in the hydrogen bleed line during the propellant loading process, when hundreds of thousands of gallons of cryogenic liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen were being loaded into the tanks. But despite the leak issues, the agency was able to load both rocket stages’ tanks with propellant, then drain them — major testing pieces that the agency had yet to put into place.

SLS testing checklist. Image Credits: NASA (opens in a new window)

While officials did not give an exact launch date, Tom Whitmeyer, deputy associate administrator for common exploration systems development, said things are looking good for an end of August timeframe.

“We feel getting through the wet dress was a major milestone for us,” he said. “It gives us some confidence that we’re still on a good path.”

The inaugural launch of SLS this year would be 12 years in the making. It was originally envisioned by Congress and NASA as a replacement to the Space Shuttle. It is now designated as the launch system that will eventually return humans to the moon — no small honor, all things considered.

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