15 Sep 2020 11:39

Russian-U.S. Venera-D mission to look for signs of life on Venus - scientist

MOSCOW. Sept 15 (Interfax) - The presence of phosphine in the atmosphere of Venus does not prove there could be life on the planet, so the Russian-U.S. Venera-D mission will make additional research, leading research fellow of the Russian Academy of Sciences' Space Research Institute Natan Eismont told Interfax.

"There are certain signs in Venus' atmosphere, which give a hope for finding life. This is why instruments capable of confirming or denying the presence of life on the planet have been included in the Venera-D payload," Eismont said on Monday, while commenting on reports of the discovery of the phosphine gas in the Venus's atmosphere.

There is no definitive decision to include the project in the new space program for now, Eismont said. Presumably, the program will include the Venera-D mission as the first stage of research to be followed by others.

"This is a marker of life or a sign of the earlier existence of life. Of course, it would be too optimistic to view this as proof," Eismont said.

The existence of life on Venus used to be questionable, but now scientists believe that life could exist in upper layers of the atmosphere, where conditions are close to those of the Earth, he said.

The discovery of phosphine in Venus's atmosphere was announced at a press conference in the British Royal Astronomical Society. The discovery was made by astronomers from the United States and the United Kingdom. Phosphine is produced by bacteria in anaerobic eco-systems on the Earth.

President of the Russian Academy of Sciences Alexander Sergeyev said in March 2019 that a joint working group would be set up in October 2019 for brainstorming the Venera-D mission and drafting an estimate to be presented for consideration of NASA and Roscosmos.

Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin told the press on December 16 that the state corporation was in talks with NPO Lavochkin regarding the inclusion of the Venera-D project in the next federal space program.

NPO Lavochkin chief engineer Dmitry Khmel said in January 2020 that the company was preparing a big program for studying Venus.

Space Research Institute Deputy Director and corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences Oleg Korablyov told Interfax earlier that NASA would invest $300 million in the Russian-U.S. mission to Venus. According to Korablyov, Russia will have to contribute 17 billion rubles. In his opinion, the funding of research-and-development works should begin in 2019-2020 in order to send the mission in 2029.

The mission will include a landing module, which will take soil samples from the planet. The module may be working for about one day.