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I'm Your Venus, I'm Your Fire...

The Big Picture:

NASA hasn't been back to Venus since it sent the Magellan probe more than 30 years ago. Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) planetary scientist Sue Smrekar is leading a team that wants to go back to the hottest planet in our solar system.

Another Earth?

Smrekar's team—the Venus Exploration Analysis Group (VEXAG)—thinks Venus started out with the same composition as Earth, with water and carbon dioxide. They want to know what happened that turned it into a superheated, sulfuric cloud covered ball of fire with a crushing atmosphere...and whether that'll happen to Earth.

What's the Plan?

Venus is 900° Fahrenheit, so landing a spacecraft on it is tough. (The Soviets tried nine times and none of their probes could last more than two hours.) As counter-intuitive as it seems, the team is contemplating sending hot air balloons. It is also looking to develop "hot technology" to help landers survive the extreme environmental conditions of Venus.

Images: NASA/JPL-Caltech

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