"You don't have to go Venus now to do Venus atmospheric research," said Daniel Vento, project manager for the Glenn Extreme Environment Rig at NASA's Glenn Research Centre in Ohio.Scientists interested in studying Venus, as well as other extreme places in the solar system can now test out equipment that might end up being used on future missions to Venus inside a new Stainless Steel chamber. Inside the 14-ton, stainless steel, 3- by 6-foot chamber, temperatures can soar beyond 900 degrees Fahrenheit, hotter than the surface of Venus. At the same time, pressure can reach nearly 100 times the weight of Earth's atmosphere at sea level. Add carbon dioxide, which comprises 96 percent of Venus' atmosphere, nitrogen and a sprinkling of other chemicals and scientists can replicate the superfluid physics that shape another world.
Engineers plan to outfit GEER (Glenn Extreme Environment Rig) with infrared spectrometers and other instruments so scientists can, for example, watch minerals interact and evolve in a Venus-like setting. The chamber also can be set up to replicate Jupiter and Saturn, both warm environments. With the addition of cooling walls, GEER one day could be used to simulate Uranus and other frozen worlds of the outer solar system.
"Turns out, the atmosphere of Venus has an awful lot in common with the inside of a jet engine," Vento said.
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