Delays to NASA's VERITAS mission a massive blow for Venus exploration

The mission was set to kickstart NASA's "decade of Venus," but it is now on hold due to budget issues.
Chris Young
An artist's impression of the VERITAS spacecraft.
An artist's impression of the VERITAS spacecraft.


NASA's plans to explore Venus have hit a huge setback.

Last year, the launch date for the VERITAS (Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography and Spectroscopy) mission was delayed from 2027 to 2031.

However, the White House's 2024 budget proposal for NASA, announced in March 2023, set the mission funding for VERITAS at a lowly $1.5 million per year.

This places the mission in a "deep freeze," according to a Planetary Society report. It's a big setback for NASA's plans to send three missions to our nearest planetary neighbor, Venus.

NASA's "ecade of Venus" hit by budget issues

Due to budgetary restraints, NASA has reportedly channeled much of the funding for VERITAS's engineering operations toward other missions facing cost overruns. The VERITAS science team is still operating, though on a reduced budget.

Because of these setbacks, scientists are now worried about the status of two other related NASA missions to Venus. "VERITAS has incredible synergy with the other missions," Stephen Kane, an astronomer at the University of California in Riverside, told in an interview.

The VERITAS mission was supposed to kickstart the "decade of Venus" for NASA, in which three major missions would travel to investigate the atmosphere of our nearest planetary neighbor. The VERITAS team was expected to lead the way by sending a probe to orbit Venus and beam data back to Earth.

Recently, scientists have been pushed for more missions to Venus, stating that the planet may harbor extraterrestrial microbial life in its atmosphere. One group of scientists even called for a crewed flyby of Venus before we send humans to Mars.

NASA's VERITAS "deep freeze" also affects other space agencies

The last mission to have visited Venus was NASA's Magellan spacecraft, which orbited the planet almost 30 years ago. Now, though, the delay to NASA's VERITAS mission will likely have knock-on effects for the other two missions NASA has planned.

The DAVINCI (Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry, and Imaging) mission, for example, was slated to fly to Venus in the early 2030s. That mission, which will drop a probe into Venus' thick clouds, is reliant on data from VERITAS. NASA officials intended to use data collected by VERITAS to help choose the best entry point for the probe.

The European Space Agency (ESA) also has a mission in the works called EnVision, which is set to arrive at Venus in the early 2030s. ESA was also hoping to have VERITAS data ahead of the launch of EnVision.

Unfortunately, it looks like the White House's latest budget proposal for NASA may have long-lasting repercussions for scientists hoping to learn more about Earth's evil twin.

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