Tulane scientist part of mission to Venus

Jennifer Whitten, a planetary scientist in the Tulane Department of Earth and Environmental...
Jennifer Whitten, a planetary scientist in the Tulane Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, has been researching the planet Venus for the past six years.(Paula Burch-Celentano)
Published: Jun. 30, 2021 at 11:24 AM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) -A Tulane University planetary scientist is one of 30 scientists from across the United States and Europe who will be part of a NASA mission to Venus.

Jennifer Whitten, an assistant professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, will serve as associate deputy principal investigator on the VERITAS team as it circles the planet.

The VERITAS spacecraft will be launched on a rocket, then released into space, where it will cruise for approximately six months before entering orbit around Venus and then slowing down until it reaches the desired altitude above the planet’s surface.

”Then we will start making measurements of the surface with the instruments onboard the VERITAS spacecraft,” she said. “From launch to the end of data collection, the mission is planned to take approximately five years, and that does not take into account all the work that has to happen beforehand. I cannot wait to see what secrets Venus will reveal. Whatever they are, it’s going to be exciting.

”The mission is one of two selected by NASA to explore how Venus became an inferno-like world despite so many similarities to Earth.

VERITAS and DAVINCI+, the second selected mission, will be the first missions NASA sent to Venus since the 1990s.

The missions are expected to launch between 2028 and 2030.

VERITAS (Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSar, Topography and Spectroscopy), which is being managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, will map Venus’ surface to determine the planet’s geologic history and understand why it developed so differently than Earth.

”We want to characterize this divergence to better understand what makes a habitable planet. With VERITAS, we are striving to understand how planets evolve to have these characteristics that can support life and how the planet evolved away from hospitable conditions,” Whitten said.

“This is an invaluable experience for my career as I am interested in continuing to participate in mission science.”

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