This Powerful New Technology May Be The Only Way To Explore Venus

Imagine we’ve successfully landed a robot on Venus! Nice job… [pause, checks watch] Annnd now it’s dead. Hello fellow carbon-based lifeforms, Ian here for DNews. I want you to imagine building a robot that can land on the surface of Venus. Actually, imagine building a robot that will land on the surface of HELL and you’ll have a better idea of what to expect. Yes, Venus is a toxic hellhole that’s not only hot enough on the surface to melt lead, but the thick carbon dioxide-rich atmosphere has a pressure about 90 times greater than Earth’s. This isn’t very good news for any robots we want to send there to explore the planet and do science. But there IS hope. NASA engineers at the Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, are developing a new kind of integrated circuit that not only survives the rigors of being in space, it could also allow the delicate electronics inside Venus landers to live 100 times longer than previous efforts.

It’s not like we haven’t tried landing on Venus before. From the 1960s to the 1980s, the Soviet Union tried to send a series of 16 spacecraft to Venus as part of the Venera program — which included flybys, atmospheric probes and landers. Of the early landing attempts, Venera 3 to Venera 6 either burned up, crashed or got crushed by Venus’ atmosphere. Even though it got crushed before touchdown, Venera 4 has the historic distinction as being the first probe to transmit data from another planet’s atmosphere in 1967. In 1970, Venera 7 made history as the first ever soft landing on another planet. It sent back 23 minutes of data before dying. After this, the Soviets had more success from Venera 8 — which landed in 1972, returning 50 minutes of data. Venera 9 landed in 1975 and took the first ever black and white photos from another planet’s surface.

Venera 13, in 1981, and 14, in 1982, returned color panoramic views from Venus’ surface, revealing the alien geology and incredibly hazy atmosphere. In 1984, Russia launched the two Vega missions that included landers and atmospheric balloons. The US even gave Venus a go when they parachuted probes to the surface during the 1978 Pioneer Venus mission. One of the probes continued to transmit data an hour after landing on the surface. But all Venus surface missions quickly succumbed to the extreme heat and pressure, most lasting for less than a couple of hours. Venera 13 holds the record, lasting 127 minutes before melting. Although our technology has advanced since this exciting era of Venus exploration, we still don’t have the ability to protect them from the extreme environment for very long. Conventional silicon circuits stop working at high temperatures long before they start to melt. But now, NASA engineers are testing an extremely durable "silicon carbide semiconductor integrated circuit” — it’s a circuit made out of a new silicon mix that continues to function as a circuit should, only at much higher temperatures.

It was originally being developed for use in hot sections of fuel-efficient aircraft. Knowing that they could tolerate temperatures up to 900 degrees Fahrenheit, the NASA engineers placed samples of the circuit into the Glenn Extreme Environments Rig (GEER). This instrument not only replicates the temperatures found on Venus’ surface, it also applies the same pressures. And after 521 hours of extreme testing, the integrated circuits continued to operate as designed. To use conventional electronics in space, heavy shielding is needed to protect delicate components. If this new circuit technology is used for space robots, I’d imagine that this shielding may not be required, reducing weight, boosting electronics longevity in harsh environments, reducing launch weight and ultimately costs. But the thing that makes this kind of tech development REALLY interesting is the very obvious applications a highly durable integrated circuit has on Earth. Robotics are used in a range of industries and are increasingly being used in extremely hazardous environments — building tougher electronics to boost their operational lives would obviously be a bonus.

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Why You Should ALWAYS Unplug Your Electronics

Are you watching a web-enabled TV while browsing on your smartphone with your laptop nearby? Think about unplugging! Because you’re wasting energy, money AND heating up the planet. Hello everyone, tech addict Amy with you today on DNews. Odds are you’re watching this on a computer or phone that you plug in but rarely, if ever, powerdown. Well, listen up, because perpetual “stand-by” mode is really not a good thing! As we become more connected and more dependent on all the latest gadgets and appliances, we’re inadvertently using electricity when we don’t need to. This includes computers that have a “sleep” mode, DVRs that sit idle waiting to record the next “Game of Thrones,” that silly clock on your microwave and your plugged-in, fully-charged laptop. For most of these appliances, they draw power from the mains simply because they’re plugged-in and not because they’re doing anything useful.

In a study of Northern Californian households carried out by the Natural Resources Defense Council, researchers found that 23 percent of residential energy consumption was coming from idle devices. On average in these homes, there were 65 such devices. Roughly a quarter of all energy use comes from appliances and devices that aren’t currently doing a thing. This may not sound like a lot, but the study crunched some numbers. Assuming that the whole of the United States has a similar addiction to useless machines plugged into the wall, we, as a nation, consume an extra 64 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity per year — that’s the equivalent power consumption of Alabama and Arizona for 12 months! If there were powerplants dedicated to keeping idle devices on standby mode, we’d need 50 large (500-megawatt) stations to make that happen.

Obviously, there’s a cost. This excess energy use translates to approximately 19 billion dollars per year, which averages out to about 165 dollars per US household per year. But the cost isn’t just financial, it’s environmental. Idle electronics account for 44 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year — that’s nearly 5 percent of carbon dioxide generated by the US residential sector per year. Carbon dioxide is a powerful greenhouse gas, so it stands to reason that if households would just unplug their electronics while they’re not being used, another source of the greenhouse gas can be limited. So unplug your devices! Turn off your power bars! And be be aware of how much you actually need your computers. Odds are, you shut a lot of things down, save yourself some money, and help the planet. And if you’re super keen, why not get in on the ground floor and help develop the tech that will help save our environment! Tech innovations are constantly changing our lives.

Full Sail’s Simulation & Visualization degree program was designed to create future engineers who will develop systems for the twenty-first century. All of Full Sail’s Web & Tech programs are designed specifically to flex as new methods and applications unfold, allowing students to remain relevant and informed throughout their entire academy journey. To learn more about these programs, and all of Full Sail’s technology degree programs, visit So electronics are a culprit, but what else in our houses are damaging the environment? Trace has the rundown in this video right here. So with some new knowledge, will you be changing your device habits? Let us know in the comments below, don’t forget to like this video and subscribe for a new episode of DNews every day of the week..

The Air On Mars Has A Mysterious Glow. Here’s Why

With a rarified (or super thin) atmosphere looking at the stars from Mars must be incredible! But at night on Mars, there's also another source of light … the atmosphere of the Red Planet is literally glowing! Howdy glow worms, this is DNews, and I'm Trace. Nightglow is the tendency for the atmosphere of a planet to glow in complete absence of external light. This bizarre effect was spotted in mid-2016 by MAVEN. The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN mission was sent to orbit Mars to ascertain how Mars was stripped of its ancient atmosphere. But, while analyzing ultraviolet pictures scientists spotted this nightglow in the swirling high-altitude air of our rust-colored neighbor… Okay first, MAVEN has found that the sun's constant barrage of energy from it's nuclear reactions have slowly stripped the atmosphere of the planet to it's current level, 100 to 150 times thinner than our on Earth.

That same stripping of the atmosphere is causing the nightglow that MAVEN spotted! When ultraviolet light from the sun hits the "leading edge" of the planet the energy in the particles break down carbon dioxide, nitrogen and oxygen which are all floating around in the Martian sky. This is called photodissociation. The now-broken-up particles, are then carried on high altitude winds all around the planet. Once they reach the nightside of Mars (away from UV light), those free nitrogen and oxygen atoms interact — combining to form nitric oxide between 60 and 100 kilometers above the dusty surface [. When they do that, they release energy, causing this nightglow! It's basically the same idea used for glow-in-the-dark toys or glowsticks! Scientists are excited because it's very difficult to map the movement of the Martian atmosphere! Taking "pictures" of this glow can help scientists determine what's happening down there throughout the Mars year.

They can see how air moves in different Mars seasons, better understand the planet's cloud formations, and thanks to ozone formation, find water molecules. To be honest, nightglow is completely normal, and Mars isn't the only planet that has it… it's been seen on Venus, and a little planet you may have heard of, Eeeahhrth?! Just like on Mars, Earth's nightglow is caused by chemical reactions in the upper atmosphere, between 85 and 95 kilometers up. And just like on Mars this glow is very faint; NASA's Earth Observatory says the glow on our planet is about a billionth as bright as sunlight. So, it's very hard to see, but it's not invisible. A 2005 study in Astroparticle Physics found about 564 photons per meter squared, per second, over the Mediterranean Sea. And, if you were on the International Space Station looking sideways at the atmosphere you can see a faint glow… that's Earth's nightglow! We know a bit more about our own nightglow — for example, just like on Mars, the solar wind photo dissociates molecules in our upper atmosphere, and when they recombine they release energy as green, blue, yellow, and red light: oxygen glows green or blue, sodium yellowish, and hydroxls, or OH molecules glow red.

Science is beautiful, ain't it? Nightglow is just another byproduct of the sun's neverending assault on our atmosphere, and the atmosphere of other planets in our solar system. What a warm nuclear ball of awesome. Worried that the constant barrage of solar energy is actually going to steal our atmosphere? Can we run out of oxygen!? Check out this video with my girl Julia for more on that. And what is your favorite science topic? Space? Environment? Animals? Physics?! Tell us in the comments. Thanks for watching! Please subscribe so you get more DNews..