UB geologist Tracy Gregg says Venus (pictured above) and Earth are about the same size, have the same mass and are the same distance from the Sun.

Image: NASA/JPL”By learning about Venus, and the differences between Venus and Earth, we can better understand how planets develop to support life.”

Gregg won’t be going to Venus herself, but she is serving as U.S. co-chair of a U.S.-Russian team tasked with mapping out potential scientific goals for Venera-D, an unmanned Russian mission to the planet.

“By learning about Venus, and the differences between Venus and Earth, we can better understand how planets develop to support life,” says Gregg, a volcanologist and associate professor of geology.

“If you think about the solar system, Venus and Earth are like twins: They’re about the same size, the same mass, the same distance from the Sun,” she says.

“And yet, Earth is this vibrant world that supports life, while Venus has an average surface temperature of about 850 degrees Fahrenheit and clouds made from sulfuric acid.

Participants have a specific objective: identifying research questions that the Venera-D mission could answer, and generating a list of scientific instruments that could be useful in Venus exploration.

The work is exciting for Gregg, who has used data from past space missions to study volcanoes on Venus, Mars, the Moon and elsewhere in the solar system.

After the science definition team has completed its work, it will be up to space agency administrators and policymakers to decide what equipment and vehicles to include in the Venera-D mission.

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