Vision of Venus
Welcome! This website is currently in development as a launch platform for our proposed future NASA Discovery Mission. Every few years NASA releases an Announcement of Opportunity for scientists interested in solving the questions of our universe. These mission opportunities are limited by the imagination of the proposers and a mission cost cap. Discovery missions are the lowest cost missions funded by NASA and are meant to grow our breadth of scientific understanding of our solar system and augment knowledge gained from the more costly New Frontiers, Explorer, or Flagship missions. Learn more about the discovery program here: Discovery Program.
Our team is proposing a synergistic mission to the planet Venus comprised of both an orbiter and two independent balloon systems. The mission’s orbiter and balloon suite is collectively referred to as the Venus In-flight & Surface In-Situ Observation Network (VISION). Once established in orbit around Venus, VISION will release two balloons known as the Venus Atmospheric Laboratory and Organic Researchers (VALORs). Together the VISION orbiter and VALORs will provide complimentary scientific data on the atmospheric conditions of Venus. Eventually, the VALORs will intentionally descend to the lower depths of the atmosphere until making planetfall, collecting scientific data during descent and on the surface.
Please navigate through this website to learn more about VISION, and feel free to ask us any questions over at our Contact/FAQ section.
Venus is one of the four terrestrial planets and located 0.72 astronomical units (AU) from the sun, or 72% the distance from the sun to Earth. Venus is considered Earth’s sister planet. The two terrestrial planets are similar in size and density; however, it is far easier to note their differences. Venus is a planet of extremes – extreme heat, atmospheric pressure, acidic gases – all of which occur under a persistent cloud layer. A runaway greenhouse effect has consumed the planet, which may be the result of the last volcanic onset some 500 to 1000 million years ago. No surface water or oceans exist today and little visible, geological evidence exists to prove that the surface was shaped by fluvial processes. With two planets forming so close in space and time, it is important to examine the reasons their evolutionary paths diverged. To accomplish this task, we are proposing to send the Venus In-flight & Surface In-situ Observation Network (VISION) to refine data gathered from previous missions, and to explore new compelling science from orbit, within the atmosphere and on the surface.
An isotope is an atom which differs from the most abundant form by housing more or less neutral sub-atomic particles (neutrons). Intriguing science can be garnered by measuring isotopic ratios of elements within an atmosphere. Heavier isotopes of the same atom tend to migrate toward the surface under the force of gravity, while lighter “normal” atoms of the same variety tend to lift upwards and be blown away by cosmic events at the volatile upper atmosphere of planets. We think we can better understand Venus’ atmospheric past and evolution by studying isotopic ratios of several different molecules present today.
There is evidence that Venus once had much more water than it does now. We do not know whether or not temperatures and pressures allowed for a liquid body of water at any time in Venus’ history. The greenhouse effect occurs when solar radiation heats a planet’s surface, and that heat is subsequently contained within the lower atmosphere from molecules present in the upper atmosphere. By measuring relative abundances of solids suspended in the upper atmosphere (aerosols), we intend to solidify hypothetical greenhouse scenarios and seek to answer whether or not Venus once had liquid water on its surface.
The clouds of Venus’ upper atmosphere are permanent and highly reflective. There exists a yet unknown mechanism driving a surprising amount of ultraviolet energy from the sun to be absorbed in the upper atmosphere. The clouds are also made up of sulphuric acid and other such substances far different from Earth clouds. There is a complicated and not well-understood mechanism driving a planetary super-rotation within the upper troposphere. By executing in-situ measurements within the upper atmosphere with VALOR balloons, we intend to demystify some of these unanswered questions.
The surface temperature of Venus is 462°C and the pressure is a crushing 92 atmospheres – not a very habitable environment to exist. Just like Earth, the atmosphere thins with increasing altitude (lower density and pressure) and the temperature drops as well. It just so happens that above the thick lower haze of Venus and near the base of the three independent cloud decks there is a region at 50 km altitude with Earth-like properties. The pressure there is 1 atmosphere (like the surface of Earth) and the temperature is slightly hotter than a summer day.
The altitude referred to as the ‘habitable zone’ contains favorable pressures and temperatures like that which would be found on Earth. However, the atmospheric composition is not like Earth’s at that location – it is 96.5% carbon dioxide, 3.5% nitrogen, and small percentages of trace gases such as sulfur dioxide, argon, water vapor, carbon monoxide, helium, neon, carbonyl sulfide, hydrogen chloride, and hydrogen fluoride. Despite the vast difference in composition from Earth’s atmosphere, it has been proposed that microscopic bacteria may actually inhabit that region of the planet.
The climate and weather patterns on Venus are unique. The winds at altitude spin four times around the planet before the planet itself revolves about its axis. At the surface of the planet, the high pressures and temperatures form a supercritical carbon dioxide liquid with very slow creeping winds. Though the surface winds are calm, the atmosphere is so thick that it could easily shape some of the surface features previously mapped by the Magellan orbiter. The VALORs seek to measure radiative and energy balance to help analyze and predict Venus climate and weather patterns.
After a certain amount of time floating at 50 km, the VALOR balloons will be commanded to begin a slow descent to the surface of the planet. During descent, the VALORs will transmit information regarding the descent profile to include changing pressures, temperatures, winds, and atmospheric composition.
Using an X-Band Synthetic Aperture Radar (X-SAR) which has been used to observe Earth’s surface at great detail, we intend to map the surface of Venus at a higher resolution than was done by Magellan back in the 1990’s. This new imagery will enable further investigation of surface features of great interest.
With high resolution radar imaging, we hope to find answers to questions regarding unusual surface features on Venus. Gaining a greater understanding of surface geological features can lead to an understanding of internal evolution and processes of the planet. This greater understanding may again lead to more solid theories about what happened in Venus’ past that left it as it is today.
After descending, both VALORs will touch down on the surface of Venus. Utilizing the Gamma Ray and Neutron Detector (GRaND) and Imaging System (IS), the VALORs will gather much in-situ data from the surface of Venus. GRaND will perform soil composition analysis to look for natural radioactive isotopes such as potassium, thorium, and uranium. The imagining system will gather imagery during descent and will take zoom-panoramic images providing high resolution images in visible light at the surface. The images taken during descent will provide the basis for geological assessment as well as ascertain the location of the landing site.
VISION is a proposed NASA Discovery Mission. The Discovery Program began development in 1989 to plan low cost mission to focus on scientific questions that could be answered in short time intervals. The first Discovery mission was Mars Pathfinder in 1996 followed by NEAR. More information can be found about Discovery by visiting their website.
In accordance with NASA’s Discovery Announcement of Opportunity (AO), we are planning to launch VISION by December 31, 2021 for a 0.4 year journey to Venus. Upon arrival, the orbiter, VISION, will deploy two instrument balloons (VALORs) to collect data within the atmosphere of Venus. The balloons will remain at an altitude of about 50 km above the surface where the atmosphere is most like that of earth with 1 atm and about 25 degrees C. It is thought that if organic matter were to exist on Venus today, that it might reside there in the upper atmosphere of Venus. The instrumentation on the VALOR balloons is specifically retrofitted to detect organic matter and other interesting molecules to help advance our understanding of Venus’ runaway greenhouse effect. After enough data has been obtained, the VALORs will descend to the surface of Venus to conduct surface in-situ measurements. The VALORs will take pictures of the surface for analysis to enhance our understanding of chemical composition and geological processes.
While traveling to Venus, VISION will communicate daily via the Deep Space Network (DSN). The spacecraft will be powered by two triple junction gallium arsenide solar arrays. The arrays are supplemented by 6 batteries. The VALOR balloons will carry a set of triple junction gallium arsenide solar arrays on top of the balloons. To survive night passes, VALORs will be equipped with several lithium ion batteries. A list of specific instrumentation found on both VISION and VALORs and each description is listed below.
We will post news about VISION when it launches in this section.
More pictures and videos to come should VISION become funded by NASA.
Principal Investigator, Engineering, Command and Data Handling, Program Management
Manish Khatri received his undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Houston. After receiving his engineering degree, Manish started working as a flight controller at Johnson Space Center where he performs realtime systems integration between ISS and commercial cargo and crewed visiting vehicles. Manish is also completing his master’s degree from the University Of North Dakota.
Manish is VISION’s team lead and is also responsible for overall mission planning and engineering. In his off time, when he’s not at work, not doing school work, or not working on VISION, he enjoys reading, video games, and photography.
Deputy Principal Investigator, Web Master, Science and Justification, Program Management
Wichita Falls, TX
Robert is an active duty Captain in the United States Air Force who currently resides in Wichita Falls, TX. He is an instructor pilot with over 1,000 flying hours on the Air Force’s primary trainer: the T-6A, Texan II. He is married to his wife, Shannon, with a Silver Labrador, Kedzie, and some sort of fat orange cat, わるい. He is a student at the University of North Dakota where he plans to finish his Masters Degree in Space Studies in May 2015.
Robert was born in Tucson, AZ in 1985. He lived there until he moved with his mother to Michigan. He attended Vicksburg High School near Kalamazoo, MI and graduated in 2003. Immediately following graduation, Robert enlisted in the Air Force as an Airfield Technician. For over three years he was stationed at Davis-Monthan, AZ back home in Tucson where he installed and maintained ground radios, meteorological and ground navigation systems. He holstered his active duty commitment for three years to attend the University of Arizona as an Air Force cadet in the Reserve Officer Training Corps. He graduated in May 2010 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics and minors in aerospace engineering and Japanese language. He attended Undergraduate Pilot Training at Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training (ENJJPT) in Wichita Falls, TX, and earned his wings in November 2011. He was assigned as a First Assignment Instructor Pilot on the T-6A. Robert has trained student pilots from the United Stated, Norway, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Turkey, and Denmark. He is currently in transition to his next flying assignment in the F-15C Eagle which will move him to either England or Japan early in 2016.
Robert is interested in all things science. He grew up with an interest in computers and video games which inspired his thirst for knowledge about space and how the universe works. His affinity for space is mostly vested in future technology and distant worlds, and thus he has focused on planetary sciences in his studies. He is interested in long duration human space flight which guided him to study medical coursework on the side. He has aspirations to attend medical school in the future to garner more in-depth medical knowledge for research and development in the field of human space travel. He was recently accepted to matriculate into the College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific, Northwest in Lebanon, OR for the class of 2019, but will be unable to accept the offer due to military obligations. He intends to continue to pursue a release from active duty to attend medical school to follow his dreams.
For hobbies, Robert enjoys traveling, rock climbing, scuba diving, sky diving, flying, cycling, running and watching movies with his wife. Robert does not like how sometime after high school the Oxford comma “went away” and people started putting only one space after sentences. Robert can already see that he will become a “back in my day” old person that nobody actually listens to.
Landing Site Lead, Science and Science Justification, Science Implementation, VISION Instrumentation
Born and raised in the Phoenix area, I attended college in Prescott and Flagstaff, Arizona and fell in love with small towns and four seasons. I graduated from Northern Arizona University with a B.S. in Education and didn’t learn until I began teaching that I had a passion for Earth/Space Science. I am currently an Integrated Science teacher at Raymond S. Kellis High School in Glendale, Arizona. Over the last 18 years, I have obtained a solid background in inquiry-based STEM instruction and have continued various professional development endeavors. I am a NASA MESSENGER Educator Fellow and have conducted professional workshops on a national and international level at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center and at Space Center Houston, as well as on a local level through the Peoria Unified School District. I have brought forth ideas and provided feedback on the implementation of lessons as a member of the MESSENGER Education & Public Outreach Team. I am passionate about STEM science instruction and have devoted much time to participating in programs offered by Honeywell Educators at Space Academy, Challenger Space Center, and ASU Mars Education Program. Last summer, I was fortunate to be recognized as the Aerospace Educator of the Year by the Arizona Wing of the Civil Air Patrol. So naturally, when looking for a graduate program, the University of North Dakota’s M.S. in Space Studies with a Planetary Science emphasis was a perfect fit for me!
Outside of school and teaching I am also married to a wonderful husband who supports my crazy pursuits and have two amazing children who make me proud every day. I enjoy coaching my daughter’s volleyball team and leading her Girl Scout Troop. I also enjoy traveling, going to the movies, belaying my rock-climbing son, cheering on my athletes, gardening, baking, camping, and spending time outdoors with my family. I am looking forward to graduation as I will have more time to do these things I enjoy with my family. After graduating from UND, I hope to begin educating adults at the post-secondary level and continuing NASA outreach opportunities. My dream job would involve working at the Mars Space Flight Facility as part of the Mars Education Team.
Project Manager, Data Manager, Mission Operations, Communications and Tracking, Ground Systems and Simulations
Born in Montpelier, Idaho
Graduated with a B.S. in physics and electrical engineering from Brigham Young University
Worked for Lockheed Martin Technical Operations Company as a satellite operations engineer at Onizuka Air Station in Sunnyvale, California
Master of Science degree in physics from San Jose State University
Graduate student in physics at University of California, San Diego studying particle physics
Worked for Boeing in El Segundo, California as a payload system engineer for the SPACEWAY program and worked on the GPS III proposal team.
Transferred to Boeing in Northern Virginia and currently work with a space based resource.
Part of UND Space Studies program since spring 2012. Courses taken include Orbital Mechanics; Risk Management of Space Organizations; Space History; International Space; and Asteroids, Comets and Meteorites, Space Mission Design and Survey of Space Studies
Married to Donna Pepperdine and father of 3 kids
Can also read and speak German.
Project System Engineer, VALOR Instrumentation, Science Implementation, Cost and Modeling
Currently I serve in the US Army, in the Ranger Regiment (Special Operations). My profession is called parachute rigger. I do everything with all kinds of parachutes – jumping, maintaining, packing during combat operations and for recreation purposes. Serving in the special ops unit also subjects me to all kinds of extremes in human performance. I was born in the Soviet Union in 1980 and spent my childhood trying to be a little communist. In 1991, USSR fell apart and I woke up in the independent country of Ukraine. I am mostly of Ukrainian ethnicity, with a little bit of Russian. However, since I was born and raised in the Russian speaking part of Ukraine, my native tongue is Russian. Ukrainian is my second language. After finishing high school with excellent grades I was accepted on full scholarship into Odessa National University to attend psychology program. I got my Bachelor of Science in Psychology in 2001, and Graduate Certificate in Psychology in 2002. Due to several factors, besides internships and all kinds of trainings, I have never worked as psychologist. I got married early, my family desperately needed money, and my interest in psychotherapy dwindled. I worked in Odessa, Ukraine as a supplying manager for a little firm and learned whole a lot about how to successfully have an illegal business in Ukraine. After some time and several attempts to have my own business I went to work for Carnival Cruise Lines, USA. I worked there for almost 4 years doing different jobs from cleaning deck to photography. By the end of the forth year I was an assistant photo manager onboard. Ship life introduced me to an alternative environment – I learned to live in the metal box for 6-8 months at a time. In 2007 I was accepted into Paul Smith’s College, NY where I studied Hotel Management and Business Administration. I got my Bachelor degree in 2009. I worked 4-5 jobs on campus and studied full time during those two years. From 2009 until 2012 I worked in different hotels, from really upscale, to economy, eventually becoming General Manager for two hotels in Maine. Regardless of my life and job experiences, I was always interested in space and extreme performance. During Paul Smith’s years I became a certified Rescue Diver. I practiced boxing, martial arts and target shooting. After my divorce I left the hotel business career and joined US Army, where I went through very rigorous selection to become a Ranger. Through the Army I also became a professional sky diver, went through airborne training and senior rigger training. In 2013 I was accepted into Space Studies program. My specific interests are: emergency delivery from space, psychological risks of long space missions, evolution and mutation in space, cleaning and hygiene during space missions (papers were written on mentioned topics).
Safety and Mission Assurance Manager, History, Policy, and Law, Spacecraft Modeling
My name is Giovanni Colberg; I am originally from San Juan, Puerto Rico. I graduated from the University of Puerto Rico where I received a bachelor’s degree in Math and Physics. After graduating I moved on to do an internship with the NASA DEVELOP program in NASA Langley Research Center. As an intern I worked on doing environmental research through remote sensing satellite data with the purpose of enhancing the environmental policies concerning the case study. After a 10 week internship period I was offered the position of center lead for one of DEVELOP’s none- NASA nodes. I worked in that position for four years continuing research in both local areas and international countries as well as working with both local and international interns. Also as center lead I got to experience the politics that go on behind science. I formed part of teams that wrote proposals of various different types as well as was able to deal with embassies and different politicians for both budgetary reasons as well as research permissions etc. As a side program I co-founded the Sky-Tech Rocketry Team in Wise, Virginia were we promoted STEM education through a series of Model Rocketry events. These events ranged from rocketry builds, launches all the way to downlinks with the International Space Station.
As of a few weeks ago I have relocated to a new job in Mexico. I am located in a city called Saltillo in the Mexican state of Coahuila. I am now one of two Principal Investigators for a remote sensing program based out of the Monterrey Tech University, Saltillo Campus as well as a professor in classes involving programming and space topics. As part of this new job we have a few missions already scheduled in collaboration with the fairly new Mexican Space Agency. These projects are a series of Model Rocketry Launches, as well as a balloon sat (cube sats) launch, among other projects.
Deputy Project Manager, Trajectory, Engineering, Payload Modeling
My focus at the University of North Dakota is in engineering, specifically systems engineering. Most of my study so far has been in orbital mechanics and military and international space history, with research projects in Near Earth Object rendezvous, the Soviet space complex, and space power theory. I am pursuing the non-thesis degree option.
Like a few other students in the Space Studies program, I am an active duty Captain in the U.S. Air Force. I graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 2009 with a bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering. As a part of my undergraduate degree, I gained experience using multiple CAD programs and MATLAB, as well as running machining and instrumentation equipment. Following graduation and completion of my primary Air Force technical training, I wanted to continue an academic pursuit that was both interesting and relevant to my career. I chose the Space Studies program because I appreciate the interdisciplinary approach that the department takes, as opposed to more narrowly focused engineering programs.
I currently operate remotely piloted aircraft for the Air Force. As a SATCOM end user, I have familiarity with day-to-day datalink management as it pertains to mission requirements. I plan on applying for the Air Force’s Test Pilot program within the next year and hope that completion of this program will help me towards that goal.
My wife is also an Air Force Captain and is currently transferring to the Reserves while finishing her graduate program in Nuclear Engineering. We met on active duty during training and live (together, finally!) in South Dakota with our two dogs.
As humans we are born with a spark to understand the universe around us. Now, more than ever, with an ever-growing population on Earth, we need to intricately understand every moving piece of the puzzle which drives our own climate. With today’s talented minds and resources we are the only species capable of halting or reversing potential global extinction events. The first undeniable fact that we must ascertain is what processes degrade a planet’s ability to retain habitable environments and what events trigger unstoppable cataclysmic planetary events. To solve this riddle, we must relentlessly study our closest neighbor, Venus – a planet of crushing pressures and melting temperatures, purged of a once vast abundance of water.
VISION’s education and public outreach (E/PO) program aims to keep the public and students informed about science and discoveries made by VISION and VALOR. As VALORs plunge into the Venusian atmosphere, they will relay important scientific data. The E/PO program will relay fascinating information on climate control mechanisms as well as tracing organic material within the atmosphere at temperatures and pressures similar to the surface of Earth. This information will be relayed through various mediums such as this website, mobile applications, YouTube videos, social media, podcasts, and news articles.
The aim of the E/PO is to reach out to the public, college students, and K-12 students in order to inspire the next generation of scientists. The program also seeks to establish two-way dialogue in order to answer questions from the public about the mission and science.
Until the mission launches and science data begins to trickle in, those interested in our mission are encouraged to look through NASA Planetary Science Decadal Survey: Visions and Voyages. VISION seeks to understand the questions specific to Venus posed in Table 3.1 “The Key Questions and Planetary Destinations to Address Them”.
Specific Venus science missions are posed in Goals, Objectives, and Investigations for Venus Exploration (VEXAG), May 2014. Table 2 “VEXAG Goals, Objectives and Investigations” lists several priority objectives which VISION seeks to investigate.
This portion of the website will contain a vast array of information and activities after VISION reaches Venus and begins transmitting data. At that time, please check back here as well as our Multimedia section for pictures, videos, and more! If you have a question at this time, feel free to contact us by following the Contact/FAQs link.
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Thanks again for your interest in our mission!
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