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USRA Participates with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center on Future Planetary Mission to Venus

A science investigation led by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center was selected for refinement during the next year under NASA's Discovery Program. The study is among five finalists selected by NASA to receive $3 million each to conduct concept design studies and analyses.

Walter Kiefer, a scientist at the Universities Space Research Association's (USRA) Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI), is a member of the investigation team for the proposed mission to Venus known as Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry, and Imaging (DAVINCI).

"One of the enduring mysteries of Venus is why its hot, dry atmosphere is so different from Earth's atmosphere," said Walter Kiefer, staff scientist at the LPI and Co-Investigator on the DAVINCI science team. "I am eager to participate in studies focusing on the origin and evolution of Venus' atmosphere and on the geology of the landing site."

The DAVINCI mission would send a probe on a journey down through Venus' atmosphere, winding up in the planet's roughest and most geologically complex terrain. The probe would explore the planet's atmosphere essentially from top to bottom, even the deep layers largely hidden from Earth-based instruments and orbiting spacecraft. DAVINCI would be the first U.S. probe to target Venus' atmosphere in nearly four decades.

DAVINCI is designed to study the makeup of the planet's atmosphere at a level of detail that has not been possible on earlier Venus missions and to investigate the surrounding surface with cameras. These studies would explore how Venus' atmosphere formed and then changed over time, including what happened to its water. The findings would help scientists understand why Venus and Earth took such different paths as they matured, and would provide another point of comparison for studies of rocky planets in other star systems.

After a detailed review and evaluation of the concept studies, NASA will make its final selection by September 2016 for continued development leading to flight opportunities as early as 2020. Any selected mission will cost approximately $500 million, not including launch vehicle funding or the cost of post-launch operations.

About LPI

The Lunar and Planetary Institute, a division of the Universities Space Research Association, was established during the Apollo missions to foster international collaboration and to serve as a repository for information gathered during the early years of the space program. Today, the LPI is an intellectual leader in lunar and planetary science. The Institute serves as a scientific forum attracting world-class visiting scientists, postdoctoral fellows, students, and resident experts; supports and serves the research community through newsletters, meetings, and other activities; collects and disseminates planetary data while facilitating the community's access to NASA science; and engages and excites, and educates the public about space science and invests in the development of future generations of explorers. The research carried out at LPI supports NASA's efforts to explore the solar system.