The US space agency NASA has sought help from the public to design a rover for its future mission to Venus. It said that the winner will be given a handsome amount for designing an obstacle avoidance sensor. The first runners-up will get USD 10,000 cash prize. The agency will give USD 5,000 to third runners-up. NASA said the public can make their submissions till May 29. Venus is the second planet from the Sun and prior to Earth. Scientists claim both Venus and Earth are basically sibling planets. Venus, however, took a turn in the past and became uninhabitable. Scientists want to send a rover to study the planet and understand what exactly caused divergence.
In the past, many missions made contact with Venus. But they quickly succumbed to the extreme pressure and the oppressive heat in its atmosphere. Venus has excessive sulfuric acid clouds as well. The surface temperature of Venus is around 448 degrees Celsius. This is almost 90 times higher than Earth’s. NASA scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory are working on future mission designs that can survive and explore the planet in its hellish landscape. The Soviet Vega 2 was the last spacecraft that landed on the planet’s surface. The mission was launched in 1985. It, however, stayed there for around 23 to 127 minutes. Its electrical instruments failed due to the hostile environment. Since then, scientists have made little progress.
NASA said it has designed the Automaton Rover for Extreme Environments (AREE) that can survive extreme environments. The agency said AREE will be powered by wind and can stay alive for months on Venus’ surface. The rover will collect valuable scientific data. It said the rover will also meet obstacles in its path like rocks, steep terrain, and crevices. The agency wants the public to develop a sensor to help the rover detect and navigate around obstructions. A sensor generally relies on electronic systems. But NASA said the challenge here is to design a sensor that does not rely on electronic systems because electrical instruments easily succumb due to intense heat on Venus.