By | February 18, 2023
Scientists are desperate to save a Venus mission on NASA's chopping block

A space agency gathers the scientific community in an effort to revive NASA’s VERITAS mission to Venus, which has been delayed indefinitely due to personnel and budget issues at the Swedish Space Agency.

This week the Planetary Society published a open letter to congress call for a 2029 launch date for the Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography and Spectroscopy (VERITAS) mission. The letter has already been signed by other organisations, i.a American Geophysical Union, University of Alaska Fairbanks and Mount Holyoke College. The campaign also asks the public to contact their representatives in Congress and raise awareness of the mission through the hashtag #SaveVERITAS.

VERITAS was originally scheduled to launch in 2027, but NASA’s planning to send one spacecraft to Venus derailed when an independent review board uncovered major institutionall problems at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The board was assembled to review retardation of the psyche mission to a metal-rich asteroid, which missed its August 2022 launch window, but instead revealed a host of problems that went well beyond that one mission. As a result, NASA decided to put VERITAS on hold.

The release of NASA’s 2024 budget proposal in March, VERITAS’ uncertain fate was further cemented, with the White House requesting $1.5 million for the mission instead of the estimated $56.7 million. “VERITAS was on budget and on schedule until NASA defunded the project in November 2022,” the Planetary Society wrote in a statement. “The space agency then removed all development funding for the foreseeable future, delaying the project indefinitely.”

The proposed amount for VERITAS’ funding is “barely enough to keep us alive,” Darby Dyar, deputy principal investigator of the VERITAS mission, told Gizmodo in an interview last month. There is a launch window opening up for VERITAS in 2029. However, the VERITAS team would need funding at least five years before the expected launch of the mission to preparewhy it is important that the team receives the funding as part of the 2024 budget.

“We urge the committees to direct NASA to launch VERITAS by November 2029 — a two-year delay — in the anticipated NASA authorization legislation,” the Planetary Society wrote. “A firm commitment to a launch date helps NASA plan and budget the project accordingly, reassures our international and commercial partners, and reaffirms America’s commitment to leading the world in planetary exploration.”

NASA’s last mission to Venus, Magellan, arrived at the planet in 1989 and ended science operations in 1994. Since then, NASA has not sent a mission to Earth’s neighboring planet, similar in size and composition to Earth (in a evil twin in a way) and can help us learn more about our own planet. VERITAS orbiter mission would provide fundamental data about Venus, the kind that NASA has missed for the past 30 years.

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