VERITAS will be the first NASA spacecraft to explore Earth’s sister planet Venus since the 1990s. The spacecraft will discover the secrets of a lost habitable world on Venus, gathering data to reveal how the paths of Venus and Earth diverged.
No earlier than 2031
Illustration of the surface of Venus.
NASA GSFC Conceptual Image Lab
VERITAS will study Venus from crust to core
VERITAS is the next mission in NASA's Discovery Program of smaller, focused missions to explore the solar system, following Lucy (launched in 2021) and Psyche (launched in 2022).
VERITAS is an acronym for "Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography, and Spectroscopy." The word veritas means “truth” in Latin, and the mission will reveal the truth of how Venus’ and Earth’s paths diverged. Led by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the mission will help scientists understand how Venus became an inhospitable inferno, while Earth evolved to become home to an abundance of life.
VERITAS will unlock the secrets of Venus’ surface and interior evolution by searching for evidence of past and present water, providing an inventory of current and recent volcanic and surface activity, and answering critical questions about the evolution of rocky planets.
Global map of Venus' surface created using radar images from NASA's Magellan mission. VERITAS will improve on Magellan's maps by orders of magnitude, greatly enhancing our knowledge of appearance of features on the surface and their topography.
Studying Venus from atmosphere to core, VERITAS will seek answers to many of the lingering questions about Earth's sister world. Does Venus have Earth-like continents that formed in the presence of water? Is its volcanism continuous, or does it come and go? Does the planet have plate tectonics? The mission will provide powerful insights about the interior of Venus that help us better understand our own planet. It will also help researchers refine models of rocky exoplanets – planets outside our solar system.
Science results from VERITAS will lay a foundation for other NASA and European missions planned for the next decade, while also identifying high-value landing sites and targets for focused observations by future missions.
This illustrates a region of Venus that may have active volcanism and subduction, where the surface is sinking into the mantle. The foreground shows rocks low in iron that are similar to Earth’s granite-rich continents. VERITAS will help determine whether these conditions exist on Venus.
Borrowing from the past, and testing new technology
VERITAS is a solar-powered Venus orbiter with many similarities to NASA's MAVEN spacecraft at Mars. After arriving at Venus, the mission will use aerobraking to help slow the spacecraft and reshape its orbit. Once it completes aerobraking, VERITAS will circle the planet in a near-polar orbit, at its final science altitude of 250 miles (400 kilometers).
VERITAS will carry a new technology demonstration to Venus, in the form of the Deep Space Atomic Clock-2. This ultra-precise timekeeping technology will help enhance autonomy in future spacecraft, as well as future radio science observations.
The design for the VERITAS spacecraft, seen here, has much in common with NASA's MAVEN spacecraft, which has orbited Mars since 2014.
Meet the VERITAS team
The VERITAS mission is led by Principal Investigator Sue Smrekar, and managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. The national space agencies of Italy, Germany, and France are also making major contributions to enable and enhance the mission.
The VERITAS team worked together for nearly a decade prior to the mission being selected for flight by NASA, proposing it a total of three times (twice for the Discovery program, and once for the New Frontiers program). Now, as VERITAS moves forward, the international collection of experts on the science team will use opportunities throughout the mission to train the next generation of planetary science leaders.