NASA plans two missions to Venus for first time in decades

Scientists hope the mission will help them learn more about the planet. (Photo: SDO/NASA via Getty Images)

Space agency NASA has announced plans to send two new missions to Venus to examine the planet’s geological features and atmosphere.

Due to launch between 2028 and 2030, the missions will be the first investigation of the planet in more than 30 years.

The last US probe to the planet was the Magellan orbiter in 1990, though spacecraft from Japan and Europe have orbited Venus since then.

Nasa administrator Bill Nelson said the missions would offer the "chance to investigate a planet we haven't been to in more than 30 years".

The missions were decided on because of their potential scientific value and feasibility of development plans following a peer review process.

"These two sister missions both aim to understand how Venus became an inferno-like world, capable of melting lead at the surface," Nelson said.

Second planet from the sun and the hottest in the solar system, Venus has a surface temperature of 500C - high enough to melt lead.

The mission, named Davinci+ (Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry, and Imaging), will examine the planet’s atmosphere in order to see how it evolved and assess whether it ever had an ocean.

It’s expected the mission will return the first ever high-resolution images of the planet’s geological features, with scientists believing they may be comparable to continents on Earth.

The second mission, Veritas (Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography, and Spectroscopy), aims to understand more about the geologic history of Venus by mapping its surface.

"It is astounding how little we know about Venus, but the combined results of these missions will tell us about the planet from the clouds in the sky through the volcanoes on its surface all the way down to its very core," said Tom Wagner from Nasa's Planetary Science Division.

"It will be as if we have rediscovered the planet," he added.