LOS ANGLES, Sept. 20 (Xinhua) -- An international team led by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) recently used Iceland as a stand-in for Venus to test radar technologies that will help uncover the planet's ground truth.
With its crushing atmospheric pressure, clouds of sulfuric acid, and searing surface temperature, Venus is an especially challenging place to study. But scientists believe that observing its surface can provide key insights into the habitability and evolution of rocky planets like our own, according to JPL.
To get a global perspective of Venus while staying well above its hellish atmosphere, NASA's VERITAS (Venus Emissivity, Radio science, InSAR, Topography, And Spectroscopy) mission is scheduled to launch within a decade to survey the planet's surface from orbit, uncovering clues about the nature of its interior.
To lay the groundwork for the mission, members of the international VERITAS science team traveled to Iceland for a two-week campaign in August to use the volcanic island as a Venus stand-in, or analog.
Locations on Earth often are used as analogs for other planets, especially to help prepare technologies and techniques intended for more uninviting environments, according to JPL.
"Iceland is a volcanic country that sits atop a hot plume. Venus is a volcanic planet with plentiful geological evidence for active plumes," said Suzanne Smrekar, senior research scientist at JPL and the VERITAS principal investigator. "Its geological similarities make Iceland an excellent place to study Venus on Earth, helping the science team prepare for Venus."
The VERITAS mission will rely on a state-of-the-art synthetic aperture radar to create 3D global maps and a near-infrared spectrometer to distinguish between the major rock types on Venus' surface. But to better understand what the spacecraft's radar will "see" on the planet, the VERITAS science team would need to compare radar observations of Iceland's terrain from the air with measurements taken on the ground, according to JPL.