Since a trip to Venus would the 30 to 50 percent shorter than the ones we do to mars, you might at some point have wondered, why the hell are we focusing at Mars instead of Venus? Quite simple, the planet’s atmosphere is extremely toxic, hot and corrosive, as we know from the last probe that reached the second planet from the sun, which lasted a staggering 2 hours and 7 minutes.
But fear not, all of this is about to change, as NASA just developed Venus-proof electronics, that in theory can withstand the contact with the planet and survive to tell! Engineers of the Glenn Research Centre in Cleveland just came up with a a new kind of circuitry capable of lasting 100 times longer than the previous planet mission electronics.
Meaning that we will probably finally see some long-lasting science on the hottest planet of the Solar System, which has an average surface temperature of about 462ºC.
The biggest problem is not the atmospheric clouds of sulfuric acid that cover the planet’s skies, is the blistering surface temperature, along with the immensely dense pressure of the planet’s atmosphere, which offers more than 90 times the atmospheric pressure of Earth’s surface, meaning that the pressure of standing on the surface of Venus is similar to the pressure of when you are 900 meters underwater on the Earth.
Due to that, regular electronics just can’t survive on Venus, and that’s why previous Soviet missions have used thermal a hermetically sealed chambers to try to keep the circuitry as cool as possible, but unfortunately, the survival record was of a mere 127 minutes set by the Soviet Venera 13 probe back in 1982.
So, the Glenn Research Centre engineers have developed circuits with silicon carbide. This type of chip has a very high heat resistance, unlike the conventional silicon chips resist until about 250ºC behaving erratically from them on.
They tested the new circuitry at the Glenn Extreme Environments Rig (GEER), which is an 800-liter chamber that works like a very hot oven, to recreate Venus’s atmosphere heat and pressure, for 521 hours.
So, although NASA has recently put Venus exploration on hold in favor of other research missions, at least now we have technology to do so!