STILLWATER, Okla. (KFOR) – After almost 20 years studying Mars, experts say NASA is shifting its focus to our next door neighbors on the other side, Venus.
The push to explore the planet is getting a lift from OSU thanks to our recent rash of earthquakes.
“We always had this vision that it would be some kind of lush garden but, it’s just this disasterous hell scape where its 800 degrees on the surface and 60 atmospheres of pressure,” Jamey Jacob, Director of the Unmanned Research Institute at OSU.
The head of the Unmanned Systems Research Institute at Oklahoma State University talked about the challenges of exploring Venus. Unlike Mars, where lander and rovers have given us tons of information, Venus is different.
“We have never been able to have the rover survive or a lander on the surface of Venus itself,” said Jacob.
Researchers have had to find a different way to explore the planet next door. That’s why NASA has started working with OSU.
“We’re using something called a solar balloon,” said Jacob.
These giant balloons, the size of a living room, are being tested right here in Oklahoma.
The plan is to rocket them to Venus. Once there, they would be deployed and float 60,000 feet above the surface, taking atmospheric readings and detecting earthquakes with a lunchbox-sized sensor.
“If you go above the cloud tops, it’s actually very Earth like. It’s about the same temperature and pressure as we have here on Earth and that’s where we are proposing to send these robotic explorers to use in these balloons,” said Jacob.
Researchers at OSU launched two balloons over the weekend, looking for sound waves made my seismic shifts.
“Two flying out over Oklahoma at 60,000 feet detecting those earthquakes primarily produced by fracking,” said Jacob.
Researchers hope the information they learn from the balloons about the second rock from the sun will help with the third rock.
“One of the things that we really hope to learn from Venus is the runaway greenhouse effect, and understanding that better will give us much greater capabilities to understand climate change on Earth,” said Jacob.