NASA has announced funding for a small spaceships project to study Venus’ atmosphere with a view to a possible future mission. The idea is to send a ‘swarm’ of miniaturized ultra-light sensors from an orbiter, released into the planet’s airspace, which will act as a passive body described adrift as a ‘high-tech kite’ to gather information about the dynamic state and cloud layers.
Called the Lofted Environmental and Atmospheric Venus Sensors (LEAVES), it was developed by Jeffrey Balcerski of the Ohio Aerospace Institute and should be a cheaper and risky alternative to collect valuable data on planetary atmospheres, especially in places of difficult observation with techniques remotely in the solar system.
Upon arrival, the sensors with an estimated mass of only 130 grams will be active for a period of 9 hours and will be able to capture chemical elements, and later report their findings to the “mothership”. The greatest expectation is to reveal if there are any clouds of microbial life. After this process, they are expected to keep entering the planet to take more measurements, until they are destroyed by the acidic, sulfur-rich environment.
Project approval is part of a recently announced agency-specific program called NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC). Based on technical feasibility, he selected innovative technology concepts for the exploration of the universe and provides financial support to stimulate the development of possible future missions.
“Creativity is key to future space exploration and the advancement of revolutionary ideas, which may seem dreamy today, will prepare us for new missions and new approaches in the decades to come,” said Jim Reuter, director of the initiative in a statement. statement. from NASA.
As the presented concept moves to a more advanced stage of the program, it will test simulations for improvement before actually sending it to Venus. It is worth noting that not all proposals will necessarily be pursued by the agency.