NASA has announced the financing of a project consisting of small spaceships to study the atmosphere of Venus, with a view to a possible future mission. The idea is to send from an orbiter a “swarm” of miniaturized ultralight sensors, released into the planet’s airspace, which will act as a passive body adrift described as a “high-tech kite” to gather information about the dynamic state and composition of cloud layers.
Called the Lofted Environmental and Atmospheric Venus Sensors (LEAVES), it was developed by Jeffrey Balcerski, of the Ohio Aerospace Institute and should represent a lower cost and risk alternative to bring valuable data about planetary atmospheres, especially in places of difficult observation with remote techniques in the Solar System.
Upon entry, the sensors with an approximate 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 biggest expectation is to reveal whether there are clouds of microbial life. After this process, they are expected to continue to enter the planet to provide more readings, 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). He selected, based on technical feasibility, innovative technology concepts for the exploration of the Universe and provides financial support to stimulate the development of possible future missions.
“Creativity is the key to the future exploration of space and the promotion of revolutionary ideas, which today may seem dreamy, will prepare us for new missions and new approaches in the coming decades,” said Jim Reuter, director of the initiative in a statement from NASA.
If the concept presented moves to a more advanced stage of the program, it will test simulations for its improvement before being, in fact, sent to Venus. It is worth noting that not all proposals will necessarily be continued by the agency.