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NASA’s ‘Return to Venus’ may have just hit a major roadblock

Published Mar 21st, 2023 4:16PM EDT
Venus on background
Image: gor_Filonenko/Adobe

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Earth’s evil twin, Venus, has been the center of speculation for decades, despite a few missions to explore the earth-like planet. However, NASA’s planned “Return to Venus” has hit a major snag, and the VERITAS mission has been delayed. 

NASA’s VERITAS mission, which is short for Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography, and Spectroscopy, was set to follow the agency’s DAVINCI mission and explore whether Venus has tectonic plates and establish if volcanos on the planet are still active. While DAVINCI is still on track to launch at the end of this decade, the VERITAS mission is delayed until sometime in the 2030s. 

And, even then, there’s no set timeline on when NASA expects even to begin constructing the spacecraft needed for the mission. Unfortunately, this news comes just after evidence of active volcanoes on Venus was discovered using old data captured by NASA’s Magellan mission 30 years ago. The hope was that VERITAS would launch at the end of the 2020s and start providing data by the 2030s. 

VERITAS mission delayed, DAVINCI still to enter Venus atmosphere
NASA’s DAVINCI probe will still enter Venus’ atmosphere to study it. Image source: NASA / YouTube

However, the VERITAS mission has been delayed due to other issues at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. According to a report detailing why NASA’s PSYCHE mission missed its 2022 launch, concerns about management, stress levels, inadequate staff, and even communication across JPL led to VERITAS’s launch being delayed until at least 2031.  

While this initial delay isn’t new, new information has surfaced in the past week following a conference where the news about Venus’ volcanoes was released. According to reports at the conference, the only budget that VERITAS has available now is the $1.5 million set aside for its scientific mission. That doesn’t cover the cost of building or launching it. As such, VERITAS is likely delayed even more now. 

Because of the budget and delays, it’s likely that VERITAS and NASA’s “Return to Venus” could be in jeopardy of even taking place at all. This is especially true as the costs of NASA’s Mars Sample Return continue to drive upward. If it goes too high, it could see NASA being forced to cannibalize other programs to keep that one moving forward.

What the future holds, we cannot say. However, we do know right now that the VERITAS mission has been defunded and pretty much stopped, despite NASA already selecting it for flight.

Josh Hawkins has been writing for over a decade, covering science, gaming, and tech culture. He also is a top-rated product reviewer with experience in extensively researched product comparisons, headphones, and gaming devices.

Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.

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