Sending landers to Venus has been one of the major challenges experienced by space agencies in the past. While NASA has successfully sent several rovers to Mars, the American Space Agency has also sent several landers to Venus that failed. However, NASA never accepts failure as an option. The space agency is making plans to return to Venus’s surface with a more futuristic and advanced lander that can survive Venus’ crushing atmosphere.
This lander is named Long-Lived In-situ Solar System Explorer (LLISSE) and it will be built to withstand the harsh conditions of Venus’ surface. The space probe will be able to return massive and interesting data about Venus to Earth. To ensure that this project succeeds, NASA is focusing more of its effort on building a better battery system that can withstand the harsh environmental condition of Venus and keep the lander active throughout the mission.
Why NASA wants to send a lander to Survive Venus’ atmosphere
In the 20th century, NASA and the Soviet Union sent several missions to Venus. The Soviet’s Venera 9 lander was the first lander to successfully land on another planet and transmit the first-ever image of Venus to earth on October 20, 1975. Despite the sophistication of the Venera 9 lander, Venus’ atmospheric pressure and scorching temperatures limited its lifespan to less than two hours of operation.
NASA is aware of the hazardous nature of Venus’ surface based on its scientific exploration of the hellish planet. Its new lander will be sent to Venus with more futuristic capabilities to last much longer on the surface of the hottest planet in the solar system. NASA’s Mars Perseverance Rover is one of the most sophisticated space probes currently exploring the surface of Mars in search of ancient life.
Scientists across the world have learned a lot about Mars from the Perseverance rover. NASA is hoping to improve our knowledge about Venus’ surface from this lander mission.
How the Lander will pass through Venus’ Crushing Atmosphere
Several spacecraft have been destroyed in Venus’s atmosphere. In fact, space agencies have been experiencing challenges in passing the atmosphere of a planet to get to its surface. Even when the NASA Mars Perseverance Rover was passing Mars’ atmosphere in early 2021, it suffered seven minutes of terror before touching down. But unlike Mars with a tiny atmosphere, NASA will take advantage of Venus’ thick atmosphere to gently descend the lander without the need for retrorockets.
Hence, since the need for retrorockets will not be required for a safe touchdown, the lander will have to rely on its battery to pass through the hellish atmosphere. Engineers building this lander are making it sophisticated enough to withstand every challenge spacecraft have encountered in the past while reaching Venus’ surface.
How the Lander Will Survive Venus’ Surface
Venus is classified as a hellish planet because of the devastating conditions of its surface. The average temperature that exists on Venus’ surface is measured at 455 degrees C (850 F). This scorching temperature is hot enough to melt lead. Aside from its high temperature, Venus also has harsh atmospheric pressure on its surface.
In fact, its atmospheric pressure is estimated to be about the pressure that exists at an ocean depth of 1,500 meters (5,000 feet). Sulphuric acid and other chemicals that exist in Venus’ atmosphere will easily make any electronic part corrode within a short time. These dangers on Venus’ surface are inspiring NASA to make the lander appear as sophisticated as possible to last throughout the mission.
NASA is partnering with a company called Advanced thermal Batteries, Inc (ATB). To develop the first battery that could survive Venus’ temperatures throughout the entire Venus day. Keep in mind that a Venus day is equivalent to nearly 120 Earth days. This implies that this battery solution is expected to last for several earth days on Venus.
The two organizations are making the battery using a technology that depends on a short-lived thermal battery system to power intelligent missiles. The battery has 17 individual cells which are built using structural material and unique chemistry that can survive on Venus’ hostile environment. The creators of this battery are taking advantage of Venus’ scorching temperatures.
The developers expect the high temperatures of the hellish planet to heat some selected electrolytes which would be solid and inert at ambient Earth’s temperature. This shows the sophisticated nature of the battery system. Although the ATB battery is currently in the development stage, scientists are confident that it will be able to withstand Venus’ scorching temperature and other environmental conditions.
NASA’s other plans for the Advance Battery System
If NASA successfully reaches Venus’ surface with this sophisticated battery system, the space agency may consider using this technology for its deep space missions with similar conditions to Venus.
“This recent battery technology demonstration, with improved architecture and low self-discharge electrochemistry, is a huge accomplishment that many may have not thought possible,” Dr. Kevin Wepasnick, ATB Project Engineer said in a NASA press statement.
NASA’s Long-Lived In situ Solar System Explorer (LLISSE) is a mission planned by NASA to operate for nearly 60 days on Venus’ surface. Scientists working on this project hope to build the battery system to last up to 1 Venus day (equivalent to 120 earth days). During this mission, the lander is expected to collect scientific data that will be returned to Earth through a Venus orbiter. What do you think about this unique technology?