Scientists interested in exploring Venus, as well as other extreme places in the solar system, now have an alternative method, in addition to expensive one-time space missions. A new scientific facility at NASA's Glenn, Ohio Research Center can simulate high temperature, high pressure, and a mixture of harmful atmospheric gases.
“Now it’s not necessary for us to fly to Venus to study its atmospheric phenomena,” said Daniel Vento, Project Manager for Extreme Conditions (GEER).
Inside the 14-ton steel chamber, which is 3 inches by 6 inches, the temperature can rise above 900 degrees Fahrenheit, which is hotter than the surface of Venus. At the same time, the pressure can reach 100 times greater than on Earth.
By adding carbon dioxide, of which 96 percent is Venus, nitrogen and some other chemicals, scientists can replicate the superfluid physics that dominate Venus.
Other test chambers were able to reproduce the individual components of the planet’s atmosphere, but GEER is able to do everything together.
“We wanted to do everything at once,” said Vento.
Engineers plan to equip GEER with spectrometers and other tools to monitor the processes occurring inside the chamber. The camera can also simulate the atmosphere of Jupiter and Saturn. With the added ability to cool walls, GEER can be used to simulate the atmosphere of Uranus and other frozen worlds in the outer part of the Solar System.
“In the long run, GEER will be able to imitate the atmosphere of any planet,” said Vento.
The Glenn Research Center, known mainly for its work in the field of aeronautics and rocket engines, does not intend to conquer the market of planetary science. But for more than ten years now, the engineers of this center have been working on a rocket methane engine and a stand that is capable of reproducing conditions on Titan, the largest satellite of Saturn.
The roots of the GEER program come from the design of chillers. When the program was canceled, the equipment was converted into the installation of extreme conditions.
"It turns out that the atmosphere of Venus has a lot in common with the internal jet engine," said Vento.
In addition to research, GEER will also be used to test sensors and equipment, such as high-temperature electronics, which one day may allow you to send a long-term mission to Venus.