Venus is one of the most inhospitable places in the Solar System, which makes it a perfect target for exploration. Sure, getting a rover on Mars and have it drive around is nice, but it’s been done before, so NASA is looking for a new challenge.
Venus, which is incredibly hot, has a huge atmospheric pressure, thick, dark clouds of sulfuric acid, and pretty much every other characteristic you’d use to describe hell.
To survive those conditions, a robot would have to be tough and smart. Also, apparently, a great windsurfer.
One of the more interesting ideas on how a Venus explorer would look like is a rover dubbed Zephyr, which would use a windsail both for direction and for steering.
A rover that could withstand the huge temperatures could be built, theoretically. 450 degrees Celsius (840 degrees Fahrenheit) is a lot, but not more than what plenty of equipment on Earth is built to withstand.
But a rover that’s tough is also going to be heavy, so moving around may be a problem. However, a team at NASA is exploring the idea of using the winds. While the weather on the surface is relatively calm and the winds slow, the huge pressure means that even a slow wind packs a lot of energy.
“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,” Geoffrey Landis, who is leading the project at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, explains.
The rover wouldn’t need to move about too much, it would just go from one place to the other, and conduct science there. Considering that most of Venus is actually quite flat and that the rover can go backwards and forward under wind power, the solution is quite interesting.