NASA Wants to Use a Strong BREEZE to Explore Venus

When looking to learn more about a planet shrouded in clouds comprised of sulfuric acid, where temperatures reach a lead-melting 900 degrees Fahrenheit, and the atmospheric pressure could crush a normal man, you need to think out of the box. The planet in question is Venus, and NASA thinks exploring this extremely hostile environment is, literally, for the birds. Or, at least that’s what their Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program is channeling with recent drone designs that could be used to explore Earth’s closest planetary neighbor. As detailed in a recent post on Digital Trends, a concept called the Bio-inspired Ray for Extreme Environments and Zonal Exploration, or BREEZE, would look to mimic the dramatic diving and soaring motions of a bird to navigate the thick, carbon-dioxide-based atmosphere of Venus. BREEZE is one of 17 projects selected for further study under the NIAC program and was recently awarded a Phase II grant, which gives it another two years and $600,000 in funding. The intense heat of the planet, combined with atmospheric pressures that are 90 times greater than those on Earth, means past probes have only lasted a couple of minutes. Ideally, BREEZE would be able to swoop in and out of the atmosphere at altitudes of 30 to 40 miles, riding zonal winds to circumnavigate the planet every 4-6 days. According to NASA, the BREEZE will use a design construct called wing morphing. This entails using an inflatable platform, as opposed to a traditional, fixed-wing look. This will make BREEZE easier to power and control by expanding or reducing its profile to mesh with wind speeds and direction. Embedded, redundant actuators will facilitate these manipulations while staying protected from the daunting atmosphere.

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