While the Cassini, Curiosity, and MESSENGER craft have been giving us extensive information about Saturn, Mars, and Mercury, respectively, it’s been a few years since our space program has been able to study Venus with much complexity. But earlier this week, NASA launched the Venus Spectral Rocket Experiment, or VeSpR, the data from which will be used to determine whether or not the planet was ever covered in water. Whatever happened to just politely asking a planet if it had any water?
The VeSpR combines a Terrier missile and a Black Brant Mk1 sounding rocket equipped with a telescope. The rocket was sent up to more than 65 miles above the Earth’ surface, where the atmosphere is thin enough that ultraviolet rays coming off of the upper parts of Venus’s atmosphere can be measured without our planet’s atmosphere getting in the way.