The former director of the scientific department of the American space agency James Garvin said this Tuesday that the Capelinhos volcano, in the Azores, is “an open book” with the potential to become an exploration “laboratory” on the volcanic system on Mars.
“We were able to see Mars on Earth through the Capelinhos volcano,” said James Garvin in an interview with the Lusa agency via telephone, regarding the NASA expedition that used the Faial island volcano to train the exploration of the Mars landscape.
James Garvin spoke to Lusa as part of the celebrations of the 500th anniversary of the circumnavigation trip of Fernão de Magalhães, in which he will participate, on Wednesday, at 4:30 pm, live through a digital platform.
The GLEX-Global Exploration Summit initiative is a digital live streaming event and will feature several speakers in addition to James Garvin.
The expedition took scientists from the United States space agency (NASA), the United Kingdom and Portugal to study the volcano that was born from the sea in the late 1950s, in conditions very similar to those that would have occurred on Mars a billion years ago.
James Garvin, who headed NASA’s scientific department between 2004 and 2005, said the Capelinhos volcano is “absolutely important” for planetary science and an “open book” for scientists.
There are very few places on Earth where we can see a volcanic system from birth to its later life. The Capelinhos volcano was the first that scientists from several countries studied so carefully ”.
For the scientist, the Capelinhos volcano should be “used as a laboratory” allowing the study of the volcanic system on Mars to understand if “maybe there are” old records of life on that planet.
“The Capelinhos volcano, its rocks and its history are important for Mars,” said James Garvin, who is now leading the DAVINCI + mission, one of four selected investigations in the NASA Discovery Program.
The mission, a tribute to Renaissance artist and scientist Leonardo da Vinci, has the Venus planetary course, “A piece of planet art”, characterized James Garvin.
Although the USA has not studied the atmosphere of Venus since 1978 (the year of the last ‘in situ’ mission to Venus), the scientist believes that it is “a matter of time”.
We needed to look at Venus to see our own destiny, which is why we want to go back. People need to return to connect Venus with Earth ”.
Asked how it would be possible to connect two apparently different planets, James Garvin said he believed that “Venus may have had oceans with liquid water like Earth billions of years ago.”
“We haven’t been able to prove it, that’s why we need to go back there, with a sophisticated spaceship to discover,” said the scientist, adding that Venus may be “an absent ingredient” in planetary studies.
What if Venus had life? What if Venus is a missing link in how the planet evolved and moved from the world of the oceans, like Earth, to worlds that are not like that? ”.
To try to answer these and other questions, the DAVINCI + mission aims to analyze the atmosphere of Venus and understand how it “formed and evolved”.
As for the challenges that a mission to Venus poses, James Garvin praised that the key is “to choose the best engineering” and “to be intelligent, innovative and creative”.
When we go to Venus we have to have special engineering and technology to be prepared for challenges that we cannot confront and that we cannot defeat. If we are capable of that, then we can go anywhere ”.
He added, “Venus can be an example that we can explore the most difficult places in space. If we send humans to the Moon, if we send robots to Mars, then we will also be able to send a robotic spacecraft to Venus ”.