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IPFS News Link • Space Travel and Exploration

New electronics open up Venus for exploration

•, David Szondy

Now NASA is hoping for similar results for Venus by developing silicon carbide circuits that can withstand the incredibly hostile Venusian conditions for over 520 hours without special shielding or cooling systems.

Venus was once thought one of the two most likely places in the Solar System where life might exist, but the Mariner and Venera space probes of the 1960s and '70s told another story. Instead of the swampy world inhabited by dinosaurs as imagined by sci-fi writers, the unmanned explorers found a planet with a surface temperature of 460° C (860° F), a carbon dioxide atmosphere 94 times has heavy as Earth's, and weather marked by deadly sulfuric acid rains.

Despite these hellish conditions, a series of Soviet Venera missions attempted to land on Venus – many of them successfully. However, "successful" is a relative word. In order to survive the landing and send back data, the Venera landers used massive, specially armored pressure vessels with special cooling systems. None lasted more than 127 minutes on the surface before succumbing to the hostile environment.