After a tantalizing discovery at Venus, what could an astrobiology mission look like?
Suddenly, a mission to investigate whether might be hospitable to life after all doesn't seem quite so outlandish.
Astronomers announced Monday (Sept. 14) that they have identified phosphine, a chemical some scientists have proposed may be a sign of life, in the clouds of Venus . The new research relied on data from two ground-based telescopes, and scientists already have plans to tug a little more at the Venusian mystery from Earth's surface.
But, if we really want to know what's going on with this strange chemical in the thick, acidic clouds of our planetary neighbor, we're going to need to get a lot closer, even right into — where no spacecraft has ventured in 35 years.
"This is something more that we can't explain about Venus," Sanjay Limaye, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, who wasn't involved in the new study, told Space.com. "Venus has got more questions [about it] than , which is why we are suggesting that Venus should be considered an astrobiology target."
Related: Strange chemical in clouds of Venus defies explanation. Could it be a sign of life?
It's not that scientists haven't wanted to explore Venus more thoroughly, of course. But the planet is seriously rough on the vital organs of a spacecraft. Take a computer, some electronics and a bunch of ultra-sensitive instruments and send them through acidic clouds to a surface that's essentially a , and, well, it isn't pretty. In fact, no spacecraft has ever survived ...
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