Let's Talk About: Hell on Earth in Cleveland

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Last year NASA and the National Science Foundation released its goals and objectives for space research during the next decade. Based on these science goals, 25 mission candidates were selected. One of the missions being considered is a proposed Venus lander. Research has already started for that proposed mission at the Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, where NASA will soon be able to re-create the hellish conditions of Venus right here on Earth.

Venus, the second planet from the sun, is often referred to as our sister planet because they are comparable in size, mass, density and volume. But that is where the similarities end. Venus is closer to the sun than Earth is, so it has been transformed into an extremely hostile world; far different from the Roman goddess of beauty and love it was named after.

Venus has a surface temperature of 932 degrees Fahrenheit, an atmospheric pressure 92 times greater than Earth's and an atmosphere of mostly carbon dioxide with traces of several acids. Without special protection, a visitor to Venus would die instantly -- crushed by the immense air pressure, suffocated by the atmosphere, burned to a crisp by the scorching heat, and dissolved by the acid.

The last Venus lander was Venera 13, in 1984, and it lasted only 127 minutes before succumbing to the Venus' hellish environment. No spacecraft built today could survive on Venus for more than a few hours. That's the problem that NASA's Extreme Environment Test Chamber at Glenn Research Center will soon be trying to solve.

The 4-foot-long, 3-feet-in-diameter cylindrical test chamber will have a 10-inch-thick stainless-steel shell and an inner lining made from a nickel-chromium alloy. The chamber will be able to simulate Venus' atmosphere, complete with all of the trace acids on Venus, 1,300 pounds per square inch of pressure and a temperature of 900 degrees Fahrenheit.

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First Published April 12, 2012 12:00 AM


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