NASA delays its return to Venus for years due to lack of personnel

NASA has decided to delay the launch of the VERITAS mission to Venus for at least three years, until 2031, after identifying a lack of personnel at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

Billed as NASA’s return to Venus, VERITAS (Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography, and Spectroscopy) is a JPL-led mission designed to search for water and volcanic activity on Venus. It was selected in 2021 as one of two Venus proposals for the agency’s Discovery Program — the other is DAVINCI, scheduled for early next decade — a line of low-cost, competitive missions led by a single principal investigator, according to the agency.

The mission, with planned contributions from the Italian Space Agency, the German Aerospace Center and the French Space Agency, was originally expected to launch in December 2027.

According to NASA, the postponement of the mission would allow experienced JPL personnel to complete the development of strategic flagship missions further along in their development, such as the Psyche mission – the first to a metal-rich asteroid -, which has been postponed for a year, until October 2023, precisely because of the excess workload.

“A delay of VERITAS, a mission in early formulation, would also free up additional resources to enable the continuation of Psyche and positively affect other planetary funding needs,” NASA adds.

NASA confirmed in late October its endorsement of the Psyche mission, which was to launch last month but was delayed this summer, targeting a launch window that will open on October 10, 2023.

A review board, convened at the request of NASA and JPL, found that a significant factor in the delay was an imbalance between the workload and available workforce at JPL. NASA will work closely with JPL management over the next few months to address the challenges raised in the report. The board will meet again in the spring of 2023 to review progress. (EuropePress)