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Armed With Tough Computer Chips, Scientists Are Ready to Return to the Hell of Venus

By Science

November 22, 2017

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Robot missions to Venus could become routine within the next decade by sending exploratory probes with highly durable computer chips that can handle the planet's extreme environment, according to Phil Neudeck of the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

"We're really trying to recreate Moore's law, but to do it for high temperature," Neudeck says.

Last year, his team demonstrated a silicon carbide chip's endurance by putting it through stress tests in the Glenn Extreme Environments Rig, which simulates Venus' high temperatures and pressures. A 24-transistor version of the chip survived for 21 days in the simulation, and proposed Venus missions seek to use robotic landers equipped with such chips that can run tests on the planet's interior for sustained periods.

NASA scientists say advances such as Neudeck's could pave the way for rekindled interest and investment in missions to Venus, which have been mostly dampened by budgetary austerity and aborted projects.

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