'Sail rover' could explore hellish Venus

August 23, 2013 by Elizabeth Howell, Universe Today
A landing concept for a possible Venus windsurfing rover from the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts office. Credit: NASA

A windsailing rover could use the high speeds and hot temperatures of Venus to a robotic explorer's advantage, according to an idea funded by NASA's Innovative Advanced Concepts program.

The rover would not only be able to move around Venus, but would also have electronics inside able to withstand the temperatures of 450 degrees Celsius (840 degrees Fahrenheit).

The rover, which is nicknamed Zephyr, would spend most of its time on Venus doing analysis on the ground. Whenever the science team wants to move some distance, however, it would deploy a sail that could bring it across the surface. One vision sees it sailing for about 15 minutes a day for about a month.

"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," stated Geoffrey Landis, who is with NASA's Glenn Research Center.

"The fundamental elements of a rover for Venus are not beyond the bounds of physics," Landis added. "We could survive the of Venus if we can come up with an innovative concept for a rover that can move on extremely low power levels."

Landis has had many ideas for exploring Venus, including using a solar powered and colonizing the planet using floating cities.

Artist’s conception of the atmosphere of Venus. Credit: ESA

You can read more details about the windsurfing rover here. If this gets to the mission phase, this would represent the first time that any robot landed on Venus since the Soviet Venera landers; the last attempt was in the 1980s.

Explore further: Image: Data from Venus

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1 / 5 (10) Aug 23, 2013
dead on arrival. venus atmosphere is 93 times more dense than earth at ground level. let alone it being too hot. these temperatures will cause failure of any complex system in NUMEROUS ways over time. not a wise risk to take for a nasa mission.

if you want something to survive on venus for extended periods, reliably. it needs to float to avoid the crushing temps and atmospheres of the surface. ( note there could be numerous anomolies of surface temperature , ph, and pressure that we have not yet obvserved---the current thinking is the surface is a slow changing slow moving pressure system like on our earth ocean floors)

at 50km above the suface of venus, a balloon mission would be floating in sulfuric acid clouds at 1 bar and freezing at about 0 celsuis. that's a freezing day on earth at ground pressure. plenty of balloons can withstand that. they just have to be designed to float in acidic clouds.

1.4 / 5 (9) Aug 23, 2013
Landis has had many ideas for exploring Venus, including using a solar powered airplane and colonizing the planet using floating cities.
Why take this guy seriously? Who the H wants to live in a floating city on Venus? How stupid is that?
2.6 / 5 (10) Aug 23, 2013
...The rover, which is nicknamed Zephyr, would...

How about we send our very own aether loving Zephyr/natello/whatever his new puppet is to the surface of venus to see how he fares. I'll personally chip in until it hurts on that one.

Seriously though, I've always been super curious about the surface of Venus. I don't think this proposal is the way we will explore it, but I'd sure love to know what it's truly like there.
5 / 5 (2) Aug 23, 2013
How fast would the rover move?? Could it possibly navigate a rough terrain safely?
How do you ensure the parachute doesn't get tangled after it's first deployment?

How about dropping penetrators into the ground, for monitoring?
1.7 / 5 (6) Aug 23, 2013
How fast would the rover move??

Much like a sailboat the speed could be adjusted by adjusting the sail. I don't remember what the winds speeds are on Venus but the top speed would be slightly below that.
Could it possibly navigate a rough terrain safely?

That would be the tricky part. Because of the communication lag it would need to be autonomous.
How do you ensure the parachute doesn't get tangled after it's first deployment?

Still need to figure that part out.
How about dropping penetrators into the ground, for monitoring?

That might be a good idea. Send it to NASA. They just might do it.
5 / 5 (2) Aug 24, 2013
Sounds like one of those ideas that has a large potential technology transfer benefit. NASA works out the thorny engineering issues of making a robot that can work in that challenging environment. Entrepreneurs, and existing industry benefit from the research.

Perhaps also something inspiring to the younger generation.

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