New technology for future missions to Venus

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Link here. The article begins by focusing on new hardened computer chips that can survive the harsh conditions of the Venusian surface, then moves to discussing our state of knowledge of the Earth’s sister planet, and the possibilities of future missions.

The article is definitely worth reading, but it tends I think to exaggerate how close the technology might be for building landers and rovers that can survive for long periods on Venus. This paragraph, describing the hardened chip that survived a simulated Venus environment for 60 days, highlights this:

A modern silicon chip can contain 7 billion transistors; each of the chips running in the Venus chamber has 175. Neudeck also uses an old-school transistor design, long since abandoned in conventional microelectronics. It’s basically a hyperexpensive, obtuse pocket calculator. But a pocket calculator running on Venus could be valuable indeed. “This is already the complexity of many of the early scientific missions flown back in the ’60s and ’70s,” Neudeck says, and more powerful than the chips on Apollo flight computers. “You really can do science.”

Exploring Venus is essential and necessary for us to truly understand how planets form and evolve. Developing technology that can survive that harsh environment is equally necessary, as it will make all future space exploration easier and more capable. This engineering work appears to be taking the first steps in this direction.


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