Venus is not a forgiving planet. The longest that any machine has survived there is 127 minutes. Surface temperatures surpassing 800 degrees Fahrenheit and clouds of sulfuric acid are a perfect recipe for frying circuits. So Jet Propulsion Lab engineer Jonathan Sauder and his team designed a futuristic Venus rover that doesn’t need electronics. Instead it uses mechanical systems that would have been familiar to Leonardo da Vinci.
The Automaton Rover for Extreme Environments (AREE) — which recently received a NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts grant — is built entirely of hardened metals and guided by a clockwork computer. The rover is still far from a planned mission, but it would be able to collect weeks’ worth of climate and seismic data from Venus’ surface, all recorded on phonograph-style records that periodically would be lifted by balloon to an overhead drone. Then NASA just needs to salvage an old Victrola.
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