Venus is the hottest, most extremely conditioned planet in our solar system, and the evolution of atmospheric components of such scalding planets have always been hard to observe by scientists. But according to Daniel Vento, project manager at Glenn Extreme Environment Rig, you no longer have to plan missions to Venus to conduct your research.
This is because the GEER facilities can replicate it in a 14-ton, stainless steel chamber measuring 3 by 6 feet.
The room, located in the Glenn Research Center of NASA in Ohio, can be modified to be as hot as 900 degrees Fahrenheit (above Venus’ average temperature, 486F), and can reach pressures up to one hundred times the weight of the Earth’s atmosphere at sea level. With the added bonus of carbon dioxide (which forms about 96% of Venus’ atmosphere), as well as nitrogen and a few other key chemicals, and you will find yourself in the same conditions any space mission would be if they could land in Venus.
This all started as a failed attempt at building a cryocooler, in which researchers found themselves with a big room and a lot of equipment, but nothing to build. With the correct tools and the right ideas, this chamber came to be.
GEER has big plans for this room, since it is the first of its kind to be able to simulate the exact conditions of the planet. They’ve begun development on a set of instruments to observe mineral interaction and evolution in the specific setting, and they hope to not only be only to replicate the atmosphere of Venus, but of Jupiter and Saturn as well. With the addition of cooling walls to the chamber, GEER may well one day be able to replicate colder planets like Uranus. According to Vento, the long term plan for the company is to be able to replicate any planetary atmosphere, even though its focus has always been mainly in aeronautics and rocket engineering. But due to luck and availability of equipment, they were able to develop their own technology to convert one of their work chambers into an extreme environment rig.
This chamber will allow scientists from all over the globe to lead experiments in observing chemical interactions in this atmosphere, and because this chamber can reconstruct any atmosphere from a hot planet, much insight can be gained for all of the work being done in this room.
In the future, this project will inspire tests and developments that would allow high temperature equipment that could allow long-duration missions on the surface of our sister planet.