New Details of the DAVINCI Mission Revealed

An artistโ€™s rendering of the moment the DAVINCI spherical probe descends from space towards the Alpha Regio mountains. Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

NASA will send a probe to descend through the atmosphere of Venus in mid-2031 to measure the composition of the atmosphere and acquire images and mineralogical data from the venusian highlands. The Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry, and Imaging (DAVINCI) mission, which will launch in 2029, consists of a carrier, relay, and imaging spacecraft (CRIS) and a spherical descent probe. The spacecraft will undergo a six-month cruise, then carry out three Venus flybys before releasing the descent probe over the Alpha Regio highland region. The CRIS flight system has two instruments that will obtain information on the venusian cloud deck and map the highlands from orbit during the flybys. The mountains of Alpha Regio have been selected as the region of interest for the descent because little is known about the mineralogy and history of these highland areas on Venus that are hypothesized to contain the oldest rocks on the planet. When the spacecraft is in the correct position, it will release the descent probe towards Alpha Regio to obtain high-sensitivity data on the venusian highlands and acquire mineralogical information using the near-infrared descent imaging system. The descent will take approximately one hour, and the descent probe will measure the isotopic, noble gas, and trace element gas abundances at different altitudes in the venusian atmosphere. It will also measure the atmospheric temperature, pressure, and wind speeds. The origin of Venusโ€™s atmosphere, and how its composition may relate to active volcanism or the previous existence of an ocean at the surface, is currently poorly understood. These atmospheric and surface measurements will provide much-needed information about the atmospheric conditions and the geologic evolution of Venus, particularly the little-understood highlands terrain. This information will help us understand why Venus has evolved so differently from Earth, even though the two planets are similar in size. READ MORE