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Venus Flagship Mission Study: Exploring a World of Contrasts

Venus Flagship Mission Study: Exploring a Nearby Terrestrial World to Better Understand our Own

Venus Flagship Mission Study report cover

Research by:

Venus Science and Technology Definition Team (STDT) Members
Chair: Mark A. Bullock Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, CO, USA
Co-Chair: David Senske Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, USA
Atmosphere Sub-Group of the STDT
David H. Grinspoon, (Lead) Denver Museum of Nature and Science, Denver, CO, USA
Eric Chassefiere, Service d'Aeronomie, Paris, France
Anthony Colaprete, NASA / Ames Research Center, Mountain View, CA, USA
George L. Hashimoto, Kobe University, Japan
Sanjay S. Limaye, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI, USA
Hakan Svedhem, ESA, Noordwijk, Netherlands
Dimitri V. Titov, Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Germany
Mikhail Y. Marov, Keldysh Institute of Applied Mathematics, Moscow, Russia

Geochemistry Sub-Group of the STDT
Allan H. Treiman, (Lead) Lunar and Planetary Institute, Houston, TX, USA
Natasha Johnson, NASA / Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, USA
Steve J. Mackwell, Lunar and Planetary Institute, Houston, TX, USA
Geology and Geophysics Sub-Group of the STDT
Dave A. Senske, (Lead) Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, USA
Bruce A. Campbell, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, USA
Lori Glaze, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, USA
Jim W. Head, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, USA
Walter S. Kiefer, Lunar and Planetary Institute, Houston, TX, USA
Gerald Schubert, University of California at Los Angeles, CA, USA

Technology Sub-Group of the STDT
Elizabeth A. Kolawa, (Lead) Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, USA
Steve Gorevan, Honeybee Robotics, New York, NY, USA
Gary Hunter, NASA / Glenn Research Center, Cleveland, USA
Viktor V. Kerzhanovich, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, USA

Ex Officio
Ellen R. Stofan, VEXAG Chair & Proxemy Research, Virginia, USA
Tibor Kremic, NASA / Glenn Research Center, Cleveland, USA
JPL Venus Flagship Mission Architecture Study Team
Jeffery L. Hall, (Study Lead) Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, USA
Tibor S. Balint, (Mission Lead) Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, USA
Craig E. Peterson, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, USA
Tom Spilker, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, USA
Alexis C. Benz, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, USA
Johnny H. Kwok, (Phase 1 Study Lead) Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, USA
Team X Design Team, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, USA

NASA and JPL
James A. Cutts, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, USA
Adriana C. Ocampo, NASA HQ, Washington, DC, USA

Venus
This global view of the surface of Venus is centered at 180 degrees east longitude. The simulated hues are based on color images recorded by the Soviet Venera 13 and 14 spacecraft. The image was produced by the Solar System Visualization project and the Magellan science team at the JPL Multimission Image Processing Laboratory and is a single frame from a video released at the October 29, 1991, JPL news conference.

In response to recommendations from the National Research Council (NRC) Decadal Survey (2003), and NASA's Solar System Exploration (SSE) Roadmap (2006), over the past year NASA has funded a mission concept study to better understand the science goals and technology requirements for a future Venus Flagship-class mission.

Why is Venus so different from Earth? The Venus Flagship Design Reference Mission (DRM) study consists of the following science themes:

1. What does the Venus greenhouse tell us about climate change?

The science objectives of this theme are to:

  • Understand radiation balance in the atmosphere and the cloud and chemical cycles that affect it
  • Understand how super rotation and general circulation work
  • Look for evidence of climate change at the surface

2. How active is Venus?

The science objectives of this theme are to:

  • Identify evidence of current geologic activity and understand the geologic history
  • Understand how surface/atmosphere interactions affect rock chemistry and climate
  • Place constraints on the structure and dynamics of the interior

3. When and where did the water go?

The Science Objectives of this theme are to:

  • Determine how the early atmosphere evolved
  • Identify chemical and isotopic signs of a past ocean
  • Understand crustal composition differences and look for evidence of continent-like crust

In essence, a flagship mission to Venus would conduct the ultimate study in comparative planetology. By understanding the atmosphere, geology, interior structure and geochemistry of Venus, we can gain a deeper understanding of the processes at work in our own environment.

The mission is comprised of a highly capable orbiter, two balloons in the clouds, and two landers on different terrains. With a launch date of 2021, the VDRM accomplishes a very wide range of atmospheric, geologic, and geochemical investigations to illuminate how the atmosphere, clouds, surface, and interior interact over many timescales. It does this by using the synergy of simultaneous atmospheric and surface in situ exploration under a mapping orbiter.


Implications
Earth's climate system is poorly understood. By studying the integrated planetary system of Venus which includes climate, atmosphere, geochemistry and surface and we can better understand processes here, and might better predict the future stability of the planet in which we live.

Venus and Earth

Significance to Solar System Exploration
In-depth exploration of a nearby terrestrial planet can successfully illuminate Earth processes. It is believed that Venus at one time had oceans on its surface, but lost them due to runaway greenhouse. With in-situ exploration to verify this theory, it will improve our understanding of how Earth-like worlds come to be and how they might evolve to either encourage life or extinguish it. More immediately, a flagship mission to Venus would help us understand climate processes that could determine the future of our own planet. Some of the most revealing secrets to the formation of the solar system, the evolution of climate on our own planet, and the habitability of terrestrial planets around other stars can be found only on Venus.

Last Updated: 21 January 2014

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Last Updated: 21 Jan 2014