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Breakthrough Discovery Prompts NASA Chief to ‘Prioritize’ Search For Life on Venus

CC0 / / Venus
Venus  - Sputnik International
WASHINGTON, September 15 (Sputnik) - The search for extraterrestrial life suddenly shifted away from longtime target Mars with word that Earth-bound scientists had discovered signs of a alien microbe high in the toxic atmosphere of Venus, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said.

“Life on Venus? The discovery of phosphine, a byproduct of anaerobic biology, is the most significant development yet in building the case for life off Earth,” Bridenstine said via Twitter on Monday. “It’s time to prioritize Venus.”

Phosphine, the highly toxic gas has only two sources - as a byproduct of inorganic chemical reactions or a byproduct of microbes that live and reproduce without oxygen.

While scientists have been aware of phosphine in Venus’ atmosphere for a decade, as Bridenstine noted, scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the United Kingdom’s Cardiff University published a study in the journal Nature earlier on Monday concluding that extraterrestrial microbes provide the only explanation for the phosphine floating in clouds of Venus.

Russia plans to launch its first Venus probe - Venera-D - later this decade, the first in a series of unmanned expeditions by landers capable of withstanding temperatures on the planet’s rocky surface that typically exceed 800 degrees Fahrenheit.

Lyudmila Zasova, the co-lead of the probe's research group, told Sputnik that Venera missions could be outfitted with balloon probes capable of taking a close look at molecules floating in the planet’s clouds.

"We have a balloon probe that changes altitude. In principle, it is equipped with a microscope, among other instruments. We will put an emphasis on this remit," the scientist added.

Venera-D will be the first Venus probe launched by Russia. Earlier Venera probes were launched by the former Soviet Union.

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