Venus is like Earth’s dizygotic twin — similar in size, gravity and terrestrial makeup. But our solar sibling also has a defining dissimilarity: It’s hot as hell.
With an atmospheric pressure 92 times that of Earth’s, the second planet from the Sun is shrouded in dense clouds of sulfuric acid. And if you do manage to break through its annihilating atmosphere, its surface temperature is hotter than an oven set to broil. Taking all that into account, landing (and maintaining) a rover on Venus is seemingly impossible.
That doesn’t mean we won’t try.
NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts program is funding research into a new landsailing rover, dubbed the “Zephyr.” Unlike the rovers we’ve successfully landed on Mars, Zephyr would use wind force to generate power, similar to the very basic functions of a sail.
Although Venus doesn’t have strong winds — they reach speeds of about 2 miles per hour — the planet’s pressure combined with just a tiny breeze is enough to generate significant force, said Geoffrey Landis of NASA’s Glenn Research Center.
“A sail rover would be extraordinary for Venus. The sail has only two moving parts — just to set the sail and set the steering position — and that doesn’t require a lot of power. There’s no power required to actually drive,” Landis said earlier this year.
Here’s Landis’ mockup of the rover landing:
But what about the heat? Instead of trying to fight it, this “sailboat on wheels” would be built to withstand it, using electronics that can function in 840 degrees Fahrenheit.
Zephyr will be a mostly stagnant robot that parks and hones in on a specific area. Once it has delivered satisfactory data, it will deploy its sail and relocate to a new spot. However, Landis, notes that this rover would only move about “every now and then.”
The landsailing rover isn’t his only proposal. Landis, who gets paid to dream up these outside-the-box ideas, also published sketches of an exploratory mission featuring a four-wheeled robot and an airplane.
Read more: http://mashable.com/2013/08/25/venus-rover/