Mars seems to get all the love and press. Humans want to go there, it’s featured in all the greatest Matt Damon films, and it already has multiple rovers exploring the surface. But what about Venus? Yes, its surface reaches temperatures of 850 degrees Fahrenheit, and the air is a combination of carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and sulfur dioxide. The atmosphere just happens to be dense enough to crush anything that makes it to the surface.
But why not send a rover to Venus? Well, for all those reasons listed above.
A human trip to Venus may be the equivalent of lighting astronauts on fire and throwing them in a trash compactor with breathing tubes attached to a car’s exhaust pipe, but Venus can be hazardous to robots, as well. The last piece of technology to visit Venus, a Soviet Union rover in the 1980’s, lasted less than an hour.
You wouldn’t want to plan your next vacation on Venus, is what we are saying.
That’s why Jonathan Sauder, an engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, is designing a low-tech rover that could last on Venus for days or perhaps weeks or months.
“Planetary scientists are very interested in Venus because the data we have is almost nothing,” Sauder told Wired.
AREE (Automotive Rover for Extreme Environments) won’t possess all the fancy high-tech gadgets and advanced sensors which would be fried in seconds on the surface of Venus. The design uses levers and gears rather than electronics to make calculations. The rover will be powered by a wind turbine that captures the planet’s turbulent winds. In other words, AREE is essentially a steam punk rover.
Sauder and others will be spending the next three years building AREE thanks to a recent grant. The rover will possess treads like a tank, in the hopes of trekking Venus’s relatively unknown surface.