Feeds

NASA boffins plan Venusian airline

Cunning plan for unfriendly world

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

NASA researchers want to send a solar-powered, flying explorer to Venus. The plane would stay high in the Venusian atmosphere - out of the acidic clouds, crushing pressures and surface temperatures hot enough to melt lead.

From its vantage point, it would be able to take far better radar measurements than an orbiting craft, and could also visit different altitudes, and provide insight into the dynamics of Venus' atmosphere. The researchers say it would also carry a computer to control a specially toughened, "dumb rover" on the planet's surface.

The research team, based at NASA's Glenn Research Centre, says that it can get basic electrical systems to work on Venus' surface, but that delicate things, such as computers, will not work in temperatures that soar to 450°C. They propose stripping all the complexity out of any rover destined for Venus's surface, and keeping the brain in its flying companion.

"With no vulnerable on-board computer, we might then be able to duplicate the Spirit and Opportunity missions," Lead researcher Geoffrey Landis told New Scientist.

If the plane cruised between the cloud base and the cloud tops, it would only have to deal with temperatures of 100°C.

Landis is especially interested in a fast-moving band of cloud that actually spins faster than the planet itself. Venus does have a very slow rotation: one day/night period takes 117 Earth days, but the cloud whizzes round in just four, and scientists so far have no explanation for it.

Space scientists at the European Space Agency have welcomed the plans, even though it is far from certain that NASA will approve and fund the plans. ESA is planning a Venus Express orbiter mission, a replica of the Mars Express mission that has gathered so much interesting data. But although orbital data is good, in-situ measurements are always preferable. ®

Related stories

Mercury mission blasts into solar orbit
Tropical storm delays Mercury mission
Scientist seeks alien cloud-dwelling bug

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

More from The Register

next story
Antarctic ice THICKER than first feared – penguin-bot boffins
Robo-sub scans freezing waters, rocks warming models
I'll be back (and forward): Hollywood's time travel tribulations
Quick, call the Time Cops to sort out this paradox!
Your PHONE is slowly KILLING YOU
Doctors find new Digitillnesses - 'text neck' and 'telepressure'
Reuse the Force, Luke: SpaceX's Elon Musk reveals X-WING designs
And a floating carrier for recyclable rockets
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing and building an open ITOA architecture
Learn about a new IT data taxonomy defined by the four data sources of IT visibility: wire, machine, agent, and synthetic data sets.
5 critical considerations for enterprise cloud backup
Key considerations when evaluating cloud backup solutions to ensure adequate protection security and availability of enterprise data.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Business security measures using SSL
Examines the major types of threats to information security that businesses face today and the techniques for mitigating those threats.