NASA chooses VERITAS: Sapienza on Venus

The space mission selected by NASA for the exploration of Venus involves the research group of Sapienza University led by Luciano Iess. VERITAS is expected to answer several questions about the evolution of this still mysterious planet that has become one of the most inhospitable places in the solar system from a past very similar to that of the Earth

The space mission VERITAS (Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, INSAR, Topography and Spectroscopy), to which Sapienza participates with a fundamental contribution, was the winner in the selection of Nasa planetary missions. Nasa announced this on June 2 as part of the selection of the next $500 million Discovery-class missions.

VERITAS will be launched between 2026 and 2028 and will host onboard very sophisticated equipment funded by the Italian Space Agency (ASI). The research group led by Luciano Iess, comprising young researchers from Sapienza University, contributed to the project.

"This result is a source of great satisfaction for Sapienza as a whole - says Rectress Antonella Polimeni - the recognition of our researchers' contribution to high-value international projects such as this one takes on even greater significance due to the involvement of young researchers who represent the best energies of our country."

"The strong Italian presence in the scientific team that led to the selection of VERITAS is a further example of the role of our university in space research and solar system exploration- says Luciano Iess, professor of the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering of Sapienza - this mission will allow us to answer questions that have remained open for too long."

Venus has always aroused great interest and fascination in the scientific community. The only global data on its surface and internal structure was provided by the probe Magellan (NASA) more than 25 years ago (1994-95). Always indicated as the Earth's cousin planet for its similar size, mass and distance from the Sun, Venus has, however, undertaken, for causes still unknown, an evolutionary path extremely different from that of our planet, to the point that today it is one of the most inhospitable places in the solar system. Its dense atmosphere, composed mainly of carbon dioxide and sulfuric acid clouds, has a ground pressure 90 times greater than Earth's and average temperatures of 460 ° C. However, recent studies indicate for Venus a very different past and much more similar to that of the Earth.

VERITAS aims to answer the many questions of the scientific community regarding past, present and future evolution, in particular by searching for the presence of active volcanoes and surface dynamic processes, such as plate tectonics. VERITAS will also be able to determine the planet's composition and internal structure, providing additional clues for understanding rocky planets and a class of exoplanets with similar characteristics.

The mission will be coordinated by Suzanne E. Smrekar (Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology) and constitutes, along with DaVinci+, which will study the planet's atmosphere, one of two NASA missions to Venus.

The VERITAS scientific team, the Italian group, coordinated by Luciano Iess (Co-Lead of the gravity experiment), comprises young researchers from the Sapienza Aerospace Research Center (CRAS), the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (DIMA) and the Department of Information Engineering, Electronics and Telecommunications (DIET). CRAS-DIMA researchers (Gael Cascioli, Fabrizio De Marchi, Paolo Racioppa) have carried out, through numerical simulations, the definition of the gravity experiment to establish the planet's internal structure. DIET researchers (Roberto Seu and Marco Mastrogiuseppe, Co-Lead of the VISAR radar) have contributed to the development of data processing techniques of the synthetic aperture radar, intending to detect the presence of recent surface geological processes. Gaetano di Achille, of the National Institute of Astrophysics, completes the Italian participation with expertise on the geological structure of the planet.

"The success of VERITAS - says Gael Cascioli, PhD student in Aeronautics and Space Engineering at DIMA - has also been due to the trust placed in the young researchers who, like me, have brought enthusiasm, expertise and energy to the international scientific team."


Further Information

Luciano Iess 
Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
Sapienza Aerospace Research Center (CRAS)


Friday, 04 June 2021

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