If you thought landing a rover on Mars was difficult, learn that NASA has even bigger plans about some of our neighboring planets. The U.S. space agency has its eyes set on the second planet from the sun and is working out a plan to send a sailing rover to Venus.
Dubbed the Zephyr, this sail-powered rover will be specifically designed to use the adverse atmospheric conditions of Venus to its advantage. Earth’s neighbor is extremely hot, it is covered by a thick cloud of sulfuric acid and has a 92 times higher atmospheric pressure than our planet.
The Zephyr, designed by NASA Glenn Research Center’s Geoffrey Landis, will use the hot temperatures, pressure and wind speed to its advantage. Venus does not have high speed winds (about 2 miles per hour is the average speed), but in combination with the pressure, it will be enough to power the landsailing probe.
The sailing rover would be able to withstand temperatures of 840 degrees Fahrenheit (450 degrees Celsius) and would spend most of its time in the same place doing analysis on the ground. However, whenever scientists detected a new spot, the probe would deploy its sail and travel to the new location hovering at 22 feet altitude.
Landis explained that using a sail-powered rover is a sustainable idea for the exploration of Venus, since the machine would not actually require a lot of power to function. It would only need enough to power the sails and the steering system, he said.
This is not the first idea Landis has had about how to explore Venus, previous concepts including a colonization plan with floating cities and a solar powered airplane. The NASA scientist is hoping to ultimately design an innovative low power rover concept that could allow people to explore the hellish surface of our neighboring planet.
What do you think of the NASA plan? If the space agency moves ahead with the project, the Zephyr sailing rover would be the first machine to land on Venus since the Soviet Union’s Venera probes between 1967 and 1984.