Walking With Venus’ Wind

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By Jonathon Keats

Venus is not a forgiving planet. The longest that any machine has survived there is 127 minutes. Surface temperatures surpassing 800 degrees Fahrenheit and clouds of sulfuric acid are a perfect recipe for frying circuits. So Jet Propulsion Lab engineer Jonathan Sauder and his team designed a futuristic Venus rover that doesn’t need electronics. Instead it uses mechanical systems that would have been familiar to Leonardo da Vinci.

The Automaton Rover for Extreme Environments (AREE) — which recently received a NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts grant — is built entirely of hardened metals and guided by a clockwork computer. The rover is still far from a planned mission, but it would be able to collect weeks’ worth of climate and seismic data from Venus’ surface, all recorded on phonograph-style records that periodically would be lifted by balloon to an overhead drone. Then NASA just needs to salvage an old Victrola.

Relay Drone

A solar-powered drone could safely fly dozens of miles over the surface, where temperatures and pressure are Earth-like. Gas-filled balloons would tote rock samples and phonograph records up to the drone, which would record the findings and relay it to an orbiting spacecraft. That craft would then beam data back to Earth.

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8 COMMENTS

  1. @OP- The Automaton Rover for Extreme Environments (AREE) — which recently received a NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts grant — is built entirely of hardened metals and guided by a clockwork computer.
    The rover is still far from a planned mission, but it would be able to collect weeks’ worth of climate and seismic data from Venus’ surface, all recorded on phonograph-style records that periodically would be lifted by balloon to an overhead drone.

    I think the use of balloons and drones in Venus’ high temperature, and high density atmosphere, with its high velocity wind speeds, is VERY ambitious!

    http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/news/2013/06/18/super-hurricane-force-winds-on-venus-are-getting-stronger

    As the closest planet to Earth, Venus is a relatively easy object to observe. However, many mysteries remain, not least the super-rotation of Venus’ atmosphere, which enables high altitude winds to circle the planet in only four days. Now images of cloud features sent back by ESA’s Venus Express orbiter have revealed that these remarkably rapid winds are becoming even faster.

    Similar in size to Earth, Venus has an extremely dense, carbon-dioxide-rich atmosphere and the planet’s surface is completely hidden by a blanket of bland, yellowish cloud.

    Perhaps the most dramatic discovery was a steady increase in the mean cloud top wind speeds at low latitude from around 300 km/h to almost 400 km/h (80 – 110 m/s) in the period 2006 – 2013.

    The high density of the atmosphere would greatly increase the impact of high wind speeds on any vehicle, balloon, or drone.

  2. This is ambitious indeed. Venus is a very deterrent place, it shouts “don’t come overhere”. And then still finding a way to do it. In fact, i find it inspiring. Too often is Venus looked at as a no-go, while many eyes are turned to Mars. But what is there to gain on Mars? What would humanity and earth win by reaching Mars?
    Instead i think that Venus is something to think about. It is a bold idea, but, what if we could manage to tame Venus atmosphere, if we do that, we will certainly be able to save our own planet.
    This is of course a very long and great enterprise, but if we would be able to deflect the sunlight away from Venus, it might cool down. We would throw up dust from the ground to bind the acids. We will seed extremophile bacteria, and give it time. I think it will have life potential, that Mars will never have. If we would be able to tame it, we could win a world and be able to save our own.

  3. The use of balloons might be interesting too on the gas giants? Imagine a balloon hovering in Jupiters clouds, with a probe going up and down penetrating its deeper layers. the probe could be hanging on a wire, or remotely operated if possible.

  4. S. Clement #3
    Mar 19, 2017 at 7:38 am

    The use of balloons might be interesting too on the gas giants? Imagine a balloon hovering in Jupiters clouds, with a probe going up and down penetrating its deeper layers.

    NASA /JPL seems to think so!

    http://www.space.com/30067-nasa-windbots-jupiter-exploration-space-tech.html

    NASA’s Wild ‘Windbot’ Concept Aims to Sail in Jupiter’s Sky

    NASA is looking into a wild idea to explore the atmosphere of Jupiter or other gas giants using a robotic spacecraft designed to sail across extraterrestrial skies.

    The so-called “windbot” is the brainchild of engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and represents a potentially new class of robotic spacecraft — one that could remain airborne in a planet’s atmosphere without the need for wings or a hot-air balloon. The high-tech concept has received $100,000 in funding from NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts program, which “nurtures visionary ideas that could transform future NASA missions,” according to a program description.

    A key technology behind the windbot concept is its goal of harvesting energy from a planet’s atmosphere to stay airborne. That would help the windbot avoid the same fate as the battery-powered Jupiter probe from NASA’s Galileo mission in 1995, which survived for just an hour before being destroyed by the high heat and pressure in Jupiter’s atmosphere.

  5. Given that low in Jupiter’s atmosphere the temperature and pressure are too high, that should mean there’s a Golilocks Zone of pleasant temperature/pressure above. And the huge diameter of Jupiter means that there is a potential habitable volume of what? (Yes, I know, area of Jupiter’s surface times 10 or 20 km. equals what? a lot of room anyway, compared to the habitable surface of the Earth.)

    The late Iain M Banks wrote some sci-fi set in the atmosphere of gas giants, a vast not-outer-space, where suitably evolved creatures lived.

    Could the cloud-tops of Venus also offer a suitable habitat? How much serious investigation has there been of these environments? Maybe Mars is a step in the wrong direction.

  6. OHooligan #5
    Mar 19, 2017 at 9:48 pm

    Given that low in Jupiter’s atmosphere the temperature and pressure are too high, that should mean there’s a Golilocks Zone of pleasant temperature/pressure above.

    Whatever the temperature, there is a serious problem for any life, in the proximity of Jupiter.
    Even the electronics in probes have to be resistant to the intense radiation!

    https://airandspace.si.edu/exhibitions/exploring-the-planets/online/solar-system/jupiter/environment.cfm

    Jupiter is surrounded by an enormous magnetic field called the magnetosphere, which has a million times the volume of Earth’s magnetosphere.

    Charged particles are trapped in the magnetosphere and form intense radiation belts. These belts are similar to the Earth’s Van Allen belts, but are many millions of times more intense.

  7. OHooligan #5
    Mar 19, 2017 at 9:48 pm

    Could the cloud-tops of Venus also offer a suitable habitat? How much serious investigation has there been of these environments?

    The cloud tops of Venus are corrosive sulphuric acid, which has (along with the heat and high winds), destroyed earlier space probes.

    http://www.lpi.usra.edu/vexag/chapman_conf/presentations/taylor_tue_am.pdf

    Atmosphere:-
    • Abundant SO2, H2S, H2SO4⇒active volcanism?

    See chart:- Model Venus temperature profile

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