Tricorder Tech: Venus Life Finder Habitability Mission: Motivation, Science Objectives, And Instrumentation

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
November 21, 2022
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Tricorder Tech: Venus Life Finder Habitability Mission: Motivation, Science Objectives, And Instrumentation
Concept design for the VLF Habitability parachute probe Habitability Mission.

For over half a century, scientists have contemplated the potential existence of life within the clouds of Venus. Unknown chemistry leaves open the possibility that certain regions of the Venusian atmosphere are habitable.

In situ atmospheric measurements with a suite of modern instruments can determine whether the cloud decks possess the characteristics needed to support life as we know it. The key habitability factors are cloud particle droplet acidity and cloud-layer water content. We envision an instrument suite to measure not only the acidity and water content of the droplets (and their variability) but additionally to confirm the presence of metals and other non-volatile elements required for life’s metabolism, verify the existence of organic material, and search for biosignature gases as signs of life.

We present an astrobiology-focused mission, science goals, and instruments that can be used on both a large atmospheric probe with a parachute lasting about one hour in the cloud layers (40 to 60 km) or a fixed-altitude balloon operating at about 52 km above the surface. The latter relies on four deployable mini probes to measure habitability conditions in the lower cloud region.

The mission doubles as a preparation for sample return by determining whether a subset of cloud particles is non-liquid as well as characterizing the heterogeneity of the cloud particles, thereby informing sample collection and storage methods for a return journey to Earth.

Sara Seager, Janusz J. Petkowski, Christopher E. Carr, Sarag J. Saikia, Rachana Agrawal, Weston P. Buchanan, David H. Grinspoon, Monika U. Weber, Pete Klupar, Simon P. Worden, Iaroslav Iakubivskyi, Mihkel Pajusalu, Laila Kaasik (for the VLF Collaboration)

Comments: Based on the text of the Venus Life Finder Mission Study report (arXiv:2112.05153). Published in Aerospace as a part of the Special Issue “The Search for Signs of Life on Venus: Science Objectives and Mission Designs” (this https URL). arXiv admin note: text overlap with arXiv:2112.05153
Subjects: Instrumentation and Methods for Astrophysics (astro-ph.IM); Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)
Cite as: arXiv:2211.11443 [astro-ph.IM] (or arXiv:2211.11443v1 [astro-ph.IM] for this version)
Journal reference: Aerospace 2022, 9(11), 733
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Submission history
From: Janusz Petkowski
[v1] Mon, 21 Nov 2022 13:31:15 UTC (1,092 KB)

Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA Space Station Payload manager/space biologist, Away Teams, Journalist, Lapsed climber, Synaesthete, Na’Vi-Jedi-Freman-Buddhist-mix, ASL, Devon Island and Everest Base Camp veteran, (he/him) 🖖🏻