Language Selection

English French German Italian Portuguese Spanish

To conquer Venus, try a plane with a brain

Filed under

CRUSHING atmospheric pressures, fierce winds, baking temperatures and acidic clouds have quickly destroyed every probe or lander ever sent to Venus. So the prospect of emulating the spectacular success of NASA's Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity on Venus might seem bleak. But there is hope. Space scientists in the US believe a solar-powered aircraft could explore the atmosphere of the second rock from the sun, and carry a flying "brain" to control a toughened rover on the ground.

Writing in the latest edition of the journal Acta Astronautica (vol 56, p 750), a team led by Geoffrey Landis of NASA's Glenn Research Center in Ohio says that an autonomous solar-powered aircraft could cruise between different altitudes and locations in Venus's wild atmosphere, making measurements and radar-imaging the surface at 10 times the resolution possible with an orbiting craft. They say this would provide far better data than the Soviet and US probes of the 1970s and 1980s, which were only able to make atmospheric measurements for a short time as they descended to their doom in the planet's violent, corrosive winds.

But the planet's dense atmosphere is ideal for a flying craft. A wing's lift depends directly on the density of the atmosphere and the atmospheric pressure on Venus is about 90 times that of Earth. After being released by an orbiter, the craft's origami-like wings would unfurl from an "aeroshell" (see Graphic). Solar panels on the craft's surface could absorb large amounts of the intense solar energy, powering motors to allow the craft to fly continuously. And the planet's slow rotation, with one day and night on Venus taking 117 Earth days, means a solar flyer could stay on the daylight side indefinitely.

NASA is particularly interested in studying a fast-moving cloud band that stretches around the planet at an altitude of 50 to 75 kilometres. This band is an enigma. Amazingly, it spins 60 times faster than Venus itself, taking only four Earth days to circumnavigate the planet. "We really want to know how solar energy moves that upper atmosphere so very fast," Landis says. By cruising between the cloud base and cloud tops, where the temperature is a moderate 100 °C, a solar flyer could help scientists find out what makes that cloud band tick.

Full Story.

More in Tux Machines

Ubuntu and elementary

  • System76 wants to build its own hardware for its Linux-based computers
    System76 is building up quite a name for itself, being one of a very limited number of companies selling only computers running Linux-based operating systems. Now the aim is to branch out; System76 wants to design and build its own hardware, while representing the open source community as it does so. At the moment, the hardware used in System76 systems is outsourced, but in the future this will change. The company says that it is moving into phase three of its development cycle, and this "moves product design and manufacturing in house." And you should set your expectations high: "We're about to build the Model S of computers. Something so brilliant and beautiful that reviewers will have to add an 11 to their scores."
  • AppCenter Spotlight: Beta Testers
    Over the past month we’ve been beta testing the new AppCenter with a number of developers, from elementary OS contributors to backers of our Indiegogo campaign. After testing out the submission process and getting some apps into the store (and seeing rapid updates!), I wanted to take a moment to highlight some of the first apps.
  • elementary OS to get improved AppCenter, showing off a few new applications
    I have to hand it to the elementary OS guys, they have a massive focus on design and it does look quite incredible. It is easily one of the best looking Linux distributions, which I do admire. Their new AppCenter, for example, looks extremely clean and clear.

Beijing Zoo is No Place for Pandas

Pandas in Beijing Zoo
Photo credit: Nick Hopkins

I am a Panda lover. I work as a support engineer in an I.T company here in the United Kingdom. Most of my spare time is spent watching different Panda videos -- both old and new videos. Basically, it is my therapy; a 'stress release' for me. I find them to be adorable and precious creatures. As a matter of fact, I would like to volunteer to come to Sichuan. I want to experience and feel what it's like to be a Panda keeper, to be able to interact with them for real. The Panda is China's National Treasure, so it's a shame to watch the Panda videos from Beijing zoo, as the place is disgusting and not ideal for Pandas to live in (and for sure for all the rest of the animals who unfortunately got stuck in this prison cell).

The place looks like a ghost town. Lifeless and languished. Knowing that Pandas wear a thick fur on their body, can you imagine what it feels for them in 30C or 35C (summer temperature)? What it probably feels like all the time? Come on, if you really care, you must do something now, otherwise these Pandas will die. Please bring them back to their sanctuary where they really belong.

Linux 4.11 File-System Tests: EXT4, F2FS, XFS & Btrfs

With the Linux 4.11 kernel potentially being released as soon as today, here are some fresh benchmarks of Btrfs / EXT4 / F2FS / XFS on a solid-state drive and comparing the performance of 4.11 Git back to Linux 4.9 and 4.10. For those wondering if the block/file-system changes of Linux 4.11 have any impact on EXT4/F2FS/XFS/Btrfs for common I/O workloads or how these file-systems are comparing on this latest kernel, here are some benchmarks. Read more

Today in Techrights