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Good news for fans of Venus - last week, NASA announced two new missions to learn more about our planetary neighbor! And this week, NASA's Juno mission sent back a treasure trove of data about Ganymede - the largest moon in our solar system!

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[♪ INTRO].

For decades, NASA’s focus  in the inner solar system has been the exploration of Mars. And I’m not complaining.

Since just 2000, the agency has  sent four orbiters, four rovers, and two landers to the Red Planet. But last week, we got news  that exploration in the 2030s is going to look a little different. NASA announced two new missions to  our other planetary neighbor: Venus.

They’re part of the low-cost Discovery Program, and they’ll help planetary  scientists get a better understanding of Venus’s geologic history and current climate. Once upon a time, we were crazy  about the idea of studying Venus, from here, its atmosphere  looked similar to Earth’s, and that was too tasty an  investigation to pass up. However, once we went there and  found blistering temperatures and crushing pressures at the surface, that enthusiasm cooled off and  everyone switched their sights to Mars.

But now, Venus is hot stuff once  more, and scientists hope that it can help them understand why some planets  are habitable, and others… not so much. The first of the new missions is  called DAVINCI+, short for the mouthful “Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of  Noble gases, Chemistry, and Imaging.” It will investigate Venus’s atmosphere for clues on how it formed and evolved over time,  including looking for evidence as to whether Venus ever had an ocean. Today, the planet’s surface is  a scorching 471 degrees Celsius, and its atmosphere is full  of sulphuric acid clouds, but many researchers think it may  have once been much like Earth.

The presence of an ancient ocean  would definitely bolster those ideas. DAVINCI+ will be a sphere-shaped  probe that parachutes down through Venus's cloudy, acidic atmosphere. Along the way, it will take  precise measurements of noble gases and other elements at different  altitudes as it falls.

That data will give researchers a much  better idea of why Venus is such a hothouse compared to Earth, when it may have  started out being a pretty similar place. The second mission is VERITAS, which stands for. Venus Emissivity, Radio Science,  InSAR, Topography, and Spectroscopy.

These acronyms are getting a little out of hand... VERITAS is going to take a look at the  geologic history of Venus from orbit. Using synthetic aperture radar, a tool  for making high-resolution radar images, this mission will peer through  Venus’ opaque atmosphere to reconstruct a 3D topographical  map of the surface hiding below.

By looking at these data, researchers  hope to figure out if plate tectonics are still active on Venus, and untangle  why exactly it diverged so much from Earth. The team is also looking to map  infrared emissions from the surface to gather information on the  types of rock present on Venus, as well as to search for any active  volcanoes releasing water vapor. The teams who proposed each of these missions were awarded around $500 million to bring their  projects to life over the next decade.

NASA is aiming to launch both of  these missions between 2028 and 2030, so for all you Venus fans out there,  you’re gonna need a little bit of patience. While we wait, though, let’s talk about  a mission that’s already in action. This past Monday, NASA’s Juno  mission to Jupiter made a flyby of one of the planet’s moons, and the  largest in our solar system: Ganymede.

Ganymede is the only moon  with its own magnetic field, which also helps it create  its very own polar aurora. Past images have also revealed that  its icy terrain appears to be scarred and sliced into light and dark patterns, hinting at some pretty big upheavals in its past. Juno passed around a thousand  kilometers from the moon’s surface, the closest a spacecraft has been to Ganymede since NASA’s Galileo spacecraft  flew by in May, 2000.

As it zipped by, Juno snapped five pictures for researchers to compare  to those taken by Galileo. Hopefully, they will reveal evidence  of recent impacts on Ganymede. But the photos are just the appetizer.

Juno also gathered data on Ganymede’s  composition, ionosphere, magnetosphere, and ice shell, as well as the  radiation environment nearby. Talk about an overachiever. Juno’s doing amazing things.

Researchers hope that these  data will shed new light on Ganymede’s strange discolorations. Juno also performed a radio experiment, shooting a signal back towards  Earth as it passed behind the moon. As those waves passed through  Ganymede’s ionosphere, any changes in frequency should  be picked up for analysis by the antennas at the Deep Space  Network’s Australia receiving station.

If they do manage to measure changes,  researchers believe that they may be able to understand the connection  between Ganymede’s ionosphere, its magnetic field, and the  magnetic field of Jupiter. All of this wonderful data should  help scientists prepare for upcoming missions to the Jovian system, namely NASA’s Europa Clipper  and the ESA’s JUICE mission. They ought to be in action the same time  as NASA’s new Venus missions, so the late 2020s are shaping up to be quite a  busy time for solar system exploration!

Thanks for watching this episode of SciShow Space! And if you would like to help  support this channel so that we can continue to bring you space  science news because you like it and there’s gonna be a lot more of it to come, you can check out The people who support us there are  the reason that we can do what we do. [♪ OUTRO].