The Planetary Society is taking a stand for NASA’s stalled VERITAS mission to Venus.
Responding to the White House’s 2024 price range proposal for NASA that all but eliminated funding for VERITAS, the space advocacy group has printed an open letter to Congress (opens in new tab) requesting help for the Venus mission. The letter has been co-signed by the American Geophysical Union, the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Tulane University and Mount Holyoke College.
“The Venus Emissivity, Radio science, InSAR, Topography And Spectroscopy (VERITAS) mission is facing a critical juncture. NASA has indefinitely delayed the launch date and removed program development outlays for FY [fiscal year] 2024 and beyond. This is through no fault of the project, and due to unrelated problems in other missions,” wrote the Planetary Society within the letter.
The VERITAS delay is rooted in institutional troubles at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California (JPL), which is managing the mission. According to an independent review (opens in new tab) investigating why JPL missed the 2022 launch date of its Psyche asteroid mission, there’s “an imbalance between the workload and the available workforce at JPL.” In order to assist release assets, NASA delayed VERITAS’ launch date from 2027 to “no earlier than 2031” late final yr.
With the price range lower for VERITAS — the White House has requested just $1.5 million for the mission next year, as a substitute of the projected $56.7 million — growth has successfully been halted, and the mission is in limbo. The Planetary Society, nonetheless, is asking Congress to determine a 2029 launch date, lowering the delay to simply two years.
VERITAS was to be NASA’s first Venus mission since its Magellan spacecraft arrived at our neighboring planet in 1990. Like Magellan, VERITAS would map Venus’ floor, however in far increased decision to offer way more data.
“Without VERITAS, the United States will miss an extraordinary opportunity to lead the vanguard of scientific exploration of Venus, including how its climate and surface changed from a habitable to uninhabitable environment,” wrote the Planetary Society in its letter to Congress.
If you want to help VERITAS, the Planetary Society is asking members of the general public to petition Congress, which will be carried out by filling out this form (opens in new tab) on its web site.