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Billionaire boosts missions to the clouds of Venus

17 Sep 2020, 01:18 UTC
Billionaire boosts missions to the clouds of Venus
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Breakthrough Initiatives, a space science program founded by Russian-Israeli tech billionaire Yuri Milner, says it’s funding a study that will follow up on this week’s controversial findings about the potential for life in the clouds of Venus.
The study could lead to a range of concepts for space missions to Venus, adding to several proposals that are already under consideration by NASA and other space agencies.
MIT planetary scientist Sara Seager, one of the authors of the research paper published this week in Nature Astronomy, is leading the Breakthrough Initiatives’ project as principal investigator. There’s already a website devoted to the study, VenusCloudLife.com, and a virtual kickoff meeting is set for Sept. 18, she told me today.
Among other leaders of the Venus Life Finder Mission Concept Study are MIT’s Janusz Petkowski and William Bains, two of the co-authors of the Nature Astronomy study; Georgia Tech’s Chris Carr; Caltech’s Bethany Ehlmann; the Planetary Science Institute’s David Grinspoon; and Pete Klupar, chief engineer of the Breakthrough Initiatives.
The study group will follow up on findings suggesting that a biomarker known as phosphine or PH3 is present within a potentially habitable band of clouds surrounding the hellishly hot planet. Phosphine can be ...

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