Space & Astronomy
NASA is developing a clockwork Venus probe
By T.K. Randall
August 29, 2017 · 15 comments
The design is certainly unique. Image Credit: ESA/J. Whatmore/NASA/JPL-Caltech
The atmospheric conditions on Venus are so hostile that NASA's next probe may use a mechanical computer.
With surface temperatures exceeding 860 degrees and crushing atmospheric pressures that are more than 100 times those found on the Earth, Venus is an extremely inhospitable place to go exploring.
Previous efforts by Russia to land probes on its surface in the 1970s were met with only limited success due to the spacecraft typically lasting little more than an hour before failing.
The design for NASA's upcoming Automaton Rover for Extreme Environments (AREE) project therefore will need to be extremely sturdy if it is going to have a chance of surviving for very long.
To this end, scientists have decided to ditch the idea of using standard electronic components entirely in favor of an old-fashioned clockwork computer powered by the planet's strong winds.
The design they've come up with, which looks like something out of a 1950s science fiction movie, would even utilize Morse code as a means with which to communicate with the Earth.
"Venus is too inhospitable for kind of complex control systems you have on a Mars rover," said JPL mechanical engineer Jonathan Sauder.
"But with a fully mechanical rover, you might be able to survive as long as a year."
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