Sue Smrekar really wants to travel back to Venus. In her office at NASA’s reaction propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, the planetary scientist displays a 30-year-old image of Venus’ surface taken by the Magellan spacecraft, a reminder of what proportion time has passed since an American mission orbited the earth. The image reveals a hellish landscape: a young surface with more volcanoes than the other body within the system, gigantic rifts, towering mountain belts and temperatures hot enough to melt lead.
Now superheated by greenhouse gases, Venus’ climate was another time almost like Earth’s, with a shallow ocean’s worth of water. it’s going to even have subduction zones like Earth, areas where the earth’s crust sinks back to rock closer to the core of the planet.
“Venus is just like the control case for Earth,” said Smrekar. “We believe they began with an equivalent composition, an equivalent water and CO2. And they’ve gone down two completely different paths. So why? What are the key forces liable for the differences?”
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