To address the problem of electronics frying in the heat of the Venusian surface, JPL have created an entirely clockwork rover.
This instantly conjures images of a 'Steam-punk' contraption exploring a distant world.
Sadly, the actual design is purely functional, looking like a table with treads, and without the extra gears and embellishments associated with Steampunk (although another prototype appears to have 'spider-legs').
Still, the principle is there, and operating in temperatures of almost 500 degrees c, the risk of warped and damaged parts would be too great...
|'Table on Treads' Venus rover mock-up ©JPL|
Since 1994, Venus has been neglected in favour of the exploration of Mars and the outer worlds of our solar system.
Even so, NASA have earmarked money for a mission which may be a joint effort with Russia, whose Venera13 was the last mission to send full colour images from the surface of Venus.
As Venus is close in size and mass to Earth, it may give us valuable information about climate and other mysteries ; one of which is why does it have such a thick atmosphere ?
The thick, hazy atmosphere is partly the reason for a probe being necessary - but it's also the reason for the surface being hotter than Mercury .
As we found with Magellan, it's impossible to clearly see the surface of Venus from above.
On the other hand, if it all looks like this, then we're not missing much...
|Venus viewed by Venera 13 . Homely place...|
In Other News...
Let's just take a moment to remember that the plucky New Horizons probe is out there, travelling at over 30,000 mph towards a rendezvous with Kuiper Belt Object MU69.
The latest news tells us that MU69 may be multiple objects, or, rather oddly, just one with a chunk bitten out of it.
I'm conflating and exaggerating, of course, but how else do I make this update interesting ?
Meanwhile, back on Earth...
You may notice that I have barely mentioned the pending Stateside eclipse - not intentionally, although I am a little jealous - the last full eclipse I saw was in London long ago, in 1999...I'd like to say that I 'partied like it was 1999', but ironically, I was working underground at the time, and had to come to the surface just to watch the sky darken...
|Eclipse 1999 picture by Jurgens Mandeldorf|
I'm pretty sure that this once in a lifetime total eclipse is well documented elsewhere, I'm sure there will be attempts to follow the progress coast -to -coast, but at only two minutes in each area, that would be a fast road trip !