Washington: NASA is sending a sounding rocket to probe the atmosphere of Venus, just a week after launching a new orbiter to investigate the upper atmosphere of Mars.
The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution, or MAVEN, mission launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Nov. 18.
Now, the Venus Spectral Rocket, VeSpR for short, is scheduled to lift off from White Sands, N.M.
"It is appropriate that these launch dates are close together, because both missions will study atmospheric loss," Kelly Fast, the program scientist for MAVEN and the program officer for Planetary Astronomy at NASA Headquarters in Washington, said.
"VeSpR will peek at Venus from above Earth`s absorbing atmosphere, and MAVEN will journey to Mars to do a long-term study," Fast said.
VeSpR is a two-stage system, combining a Terrier missile - originally built as a surface-to-air missile and later repurposed to support science missions - and a Black Brant model Mk1 sounding rocket with a telescope inside. Integration took place at NASA`s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.
The experiments will look at ultraviolet (UV) light that is being emitted from Venus` atmosphere, which can provide information about the history of the planet`s water.
Measurements like these cannot be done using Earth-based telescopes because our atmosphere absorbs most UV light before it reaches the ground.