NASA mulls possible mission to Venus after recent discovery of possible life

NASA chief Venus says ‘a stop in our search for life

The results of the selection process will be announced in the future. Bridenstein explained that astrobiology, which includes the search for life elsewhere, is a major priority at NASA.

If the thought of alien life on Venus has you wanting some more off-world science, be sure to check out our list of the 25 best sci-fi movies and then read about how some scientists claim there's evidence of a parallel universe where time runs backward. "And so there is a chance that we have detected some kind of living organism in the clouds of Venus".

What does this new discovery mean for our understanding of alien life?

An worldwide research team on Monday described evidence of potential microbes residing in the harshly acidic Venusian clouds: traces of phosphine, a gas that on Earth is produced by bacteria inhabiting oxygen-free environments.

The study was published on 14 September in the journal Nature Astronomy. The other two missions under consideration have proposed missions to Venus.

Due to these intense conditions, few have paid attention to Venus as a planet suitable for life.

"The conditions in the Venusian atmosphere are 50 times drier than the driest place on Earth", Seager explained.

Greaves adds: "In the end, we found that both observatories had seen the same thing-faint absorption at the right wavelength to be phosphine gas, where the molecules are backlit by the warmer clouds below".

Astronomers have found a rare molecule named phosphine has been found in the massively acidic atmosphere of Venus.

"Basically we have no coherent theory for how phosphine could be present on Venus", he said.

To create the observed quantity of phosphine on Venus, organisms on Earth would only have to output the gas at about 10% of their maximum productivity, according to calculations by Dr Paul Rimmer of the University of Cambridge. Using models and calculations, researchers are quickly ruling out the possibility phosphine is just a naturally occurring item on Venus. When sunlight passes through Venus's atmosphere, each molecule absorbs very specific colours of this light. Although the clouds there actually have a livable temperature of 86 degrees Fahrenheit, they're about 90 percent sulfuric acid.

Phosphine is a compound made from phosphorus and hydrogen, and on Earth its only natural source is tiny microbes that live in oxygen-free environments.

This artistic impression depicts our Solar System neighbour Venus, where scientists have confirmed the detection of phosphine molecules.

Rocket Lab's modest mission is limited in what it can achieve.

"Either this discovery tells us this is life or some exotic chemistry we don't quite understand", he said. "On Earth, some microbes can cope with up to about five percent of acid in their environment-but the clouds of Venus are nearly entirely made of acid".

The team believes their discovery is significant because they can rule out many alternative ways to make phosphine, but they acknowledge that confirming the presence of "life" needs a lot more work.

The coming Venus mission will employ two pieces of Rocket Lab hardware - the 57-foot-tall (17 meters) Electron booster, which has been launching small satellites to orbit since early 2018, and the Photon satellite bus, which made its spaceflight debut on an Electron mission late last month.

After the recent discovery of possible life on the planet, NASA is mulling a mission to Venus.

There are three other proposals: a second mission to Venus, which aims to gather more information about the geological past of the planet, a fly-by journey that would allow researchers to map one of Neptune's moons, and a mission which seeks to uncover more details about Io, one of Jupiter's moons.

Even though scientists did not find actual life forms, they noted that on Earth a gas called phosphine is produced by bacteria "thriving in oxygen-starved environments", according to Reuters.

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