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Prospect of life on Venus propels interest in robotic missions (1 Viewer)


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Venus, at least, is having a good 2020.

The hothouse planet, Earth’s nearest planetary neighbor, suddenly looks more intriguing as a potential abode of life. On Monday, an international team of astronomers announced that it had remotely detected the presence of phosphine, a potential chemical “biosignature” in Venus’s atmosphere — possibly generated by living organisms.

The next obvious step is sending a robotic probe to take a closer look, something NASA and its Russian counterpart seem interested in doing. The U.S. space agency was already considering going forward with two different Venus missions, either or both of which could potentially be modified to look for phosphine or attempt a more direct detection of alien organisms.

Russia, meanwhile, has a long history of sending robotic spacecraft there, and this past week, the head of Roscosmos, that country’s space agency, called Venus a “Russian planet.”
Phosphine can result from the reduction of phosphate, an essential ingredient in Earth-type life forms.

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