Venus Rover Concepts That Beat The Killer Atmosphere

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How do you build a rover that can happily work at 500C, 90 Atmospheres of pressure and the problems of dust and corrosion? NASA has 2 approaches – one seeks to harden electronics against the heat, the other replaces electronic logic with mechanical hardware.

NASA and HeroX are crowdsourcing solutions for a mechanism to detect obstacles and allow the rover to head in a different direction with a $15,000 prize to the best entry:

  1. scavengerpro88

    Leonardo Davinci would love this. 😊

  2. Rich Waight

    Awesome insight into the creativity of the minds exploring the universe! 🙌

  3. Lovro Rukljic

    I bet the “AREE” rover will be here Edit: yes

  4. garcemac

    $15,000? Here is my winning entry: Give Elon Musk James Cameron’s phone number.

  5. TheAbc45678

    I’ve been trying to imagine for two years how to build a purely mechanical steering mechanism for use on earth (and on vehicles.) No success yet.

  6. Maria Aspvik

    I remember my professors praising pneumatical computers when I was in university. In the lab we even built a simple calculator using air pressure controlled valves, letting pressure to flow to other valves.

  7. metamorphmuses

    Clearly, we need to use steam power on Venus… there’s no shortage of heat as a power source there

  8. yexela

    Floating device would make more sense than a rover I guess.

  9. Guillaume Perez

    I gotta say that the idea of an entirely mechanical rover, which on top of that emits data, is kind of mindblowing…

  10. James Langton

    Australia now has its own space agency

  11. A Soviet Tank

    KSP2: Jool rover concepts that beat the lack of surface

  12. Rob Son

    Haaa, finally I hear the one and only real Scottmanleytune that sets my brain in that so long-beloved interesting-spacerelatedphysicsknowledge-coming state!
    (Thus nót that other tune, i mean that one that means it is another ksp-vid starting which maybe okay for many but wich mostly lacks anything new.
    Oh, about that: the vids i still cannot enough of are those under the title “things ksp does nót teach!”! Oh what a good time to learn such most difficult sciences so easy but totally troughole/clear explained on youtubes ScottManleys superspacerelated sciences)

  13. ben nichols

    Earth!? More people have died on earth than any other planet

  14. Lawrence D’Oliveiro

    4:56 Radio-semaphore!

  15. Lifecraft

    “Hey do you still build that cool steampunk-rc-car?” – “Nah, this is on its way to venus already”

  16. NathanWilson

    I’ve always been far more interested in venus exploration. Anywhere we have to push the limits of technology to go means better tech for us back home.

  17. Maarku

    “Speeece Peeewp”

  18. Jeff Portnoy

    Hell yeah a new vid of my favorite bald guy from internet

  19. Ivan Romanov

    As soon as I saw this, I thought of one of the first pinball machines I had as a kid. No CPU, no memory, no transistors or other semiconductors, just mechanical movements that played the game. Sometimes, a very complex game.

  20. ShooShoSha

    eat your hearts out steampunk fans

  21. Admiral Nips


  22. Peter Charlton

    20 transistors and a spring? Give those to Steve Wozniak. He’ll build you an arcade game and a VGA adaptor, then ask what you want done with the 5 spare transistors.

  23. Sir Loin Of Beef

    Perhaps maybe a “mole rover” that spends the most of it’s time underground?

  24. Milos de Wit

    That will be some beefy soldering points

  25. Ricard Miras

    Easy, just put inside the rover a self-sustained cold fusion reactor to keep its guts at a nice hot earth summer temperature.

  26. Timothy McDaniel

    4:00 “Mad props” — your props might have to be mad indeed to power that through Hell!

  27. Skylancer727

    2:12 You mean a machine to surpass metal gear!
    We are not ready for it. Such a lust for revenge, Whoooooo!

  28. Kevin Swarner

    “What are problems? Cliffs!” This message endorsed by Jimi Heselden.

  29. LivingInVancouverBC

    1:39 I want one! That is the coolest thing I’ve seen in a while.

  30. gavin kemp

    oh I think its time to dig out the ironstrider engines

  31. Socks With Sandals

    With air density on Venus over a hundred times higher than Earth, the slightest breeze would provide plenty of motive power.

  32. Moldybeard

    Screw the surface, I want to see a probe floating in Venus’s atmosphere.

  33. Ambonec

    4:20 What about Fluidics? Were explored in the 60s (EMP-proof) before chips overtook

  34. Sean McDonough

    0:50 – Charles Babbage, please report to KSC, paging Charles Babbage…

  35. antyqjon

    One word: protomolecule.

  36. Remington Bradley

    3:59 I really want to know what the “detailed demos” included

  37. G Mallory

    6:28 TURNS OUT! It takes 6 inches of steel to simulate Venus.

  38. n/a n/a

    I’m happy that we’re moving past another generic Mars rover. Hoping we get Neptune and Uranus missions.

  39. Mortimer Kerman

    To make a rover for Venus, just copying your rover for Eve. And add moar boosters.

  40. Jmacc182

    I really hope that we explore the surface of venus in my lifetime.

  41. Stadtpark90

    8:19 Steampunk-mention

  42. Fanny Fanny

    Starts coding an evolutionary algorithm to find solutions to the problem. Expect ugly and functional, rather than an appearance of design… Kent, there’s a lesson in here for you (if you are prepared for that…)

  43. Thomas Hughes

    Why bother walking in an atmosphere that thick. Why not just “hop fly” like a wind wound drone imitating a grasshopper.

  44. S.S RADON

    what about micromechanisms?
    surely the miniaturization of certain mechanisms to the microscopic scale would lead to significantly lighter and more compact mechanical logic.

  45. jnawroc

    Hello sir, first thing I thought of when I listened to this was this old documentary I remembered watching when I got lost in YouTube while finding more about Apollo’s weaved memory – “MAGNETIC CORES – PART I – PROPERTIES” (watch?v=HPT7Wtp3yoo) it is about doing logic gates using magnetic cores. Could you please share your thoughts on a viability of resurrecting this technology for purposes of Venus exploration, maybe this could be made more resistant to heat

  46. Mirodin

    Get Clickspring on it stat!

  47. mjproebstle

    scott manley: steam punk venus solution pls
    steam punk: HOLD MY TOM COLLINS

  48. Admiral Sean

    0:11 IT’S THICC

  49. The Rocinante

    Awesome! I’m so fascinated with Venus. Ever since I saw the SFIA video about colonizing it, it’s that much more interesting to me.

  50. Abraham Edelstein

    3:29 I mean, you could build a mechanical computer if you contracted a Swiss watchmaker to make all the parts.

  51. Brandon Link

    Those old images from Venera amaze me every time I see them. It’s fricken Venus.

  52. Jerry Rupprecht

    Some ideas:
    Have a “pin” in the wheel that falls out partially when the wheel is halfway over a cliff, this is a simple mechanical way to detect cliffs.
    Have the rover naturally turn left or right when travelling over an incline. After a certain threshold the rover should do a 180.
    Use your rovers suspension to detect rocks/rough terrain. Perhaps make the suspension in such a way that it turns upon encountering terrain above a threshold.
    These ideas may not be practical but I hope it helps someone however unlikely it may be.

  53. Julian Cedrik

    Rover with Balloon at a 50km string :D

  54. streglof

    Theo Jansen was literally the first thing I thought of

  55. erkdoc5

    Let’s see how many designs account for thermal expansion.
    We’ll need to explore venus to test how to handle our future atmosphere.

  56. Jeff Gilbert

    “Maybe you can show us how its done”
    – Shots Fired

  57. Justin Mallaiz

    im sure this has already been solved on minecraft :)

  58. Brian Graves

    What about a bunch of heat resistant probes that are disposable that are dropped like a carpet bombing. Even if they only last a few minutes maybe they can be purpose-built for only one function and doing it quickly.

  59. Torey Weaver

    I love the part where you said “This is a perfect time for you guys to stand up and show NASA how it’s done” lol so great

  60. Stormcrow

    Ahh, pneumatic logic I remember working with that on Type 42 destroyers.

  61. Ty4ons

    Molten salt batteries seem like a perfect fit for this. It could melt on the surface and wake up the rover.
    Heat resistant electronic circuits seem like the obvious solution for this. If they’re comfortable running at 450C then cooling is going to be easy with the thick atmosphere.

  62. Thelondonbadger

    Finally, i can upgrade a roomba to be able to clean my gfs car.

  63. pentagramprime

    8:25 I think there is an off-the-shelf solution. I’ve been meaning to purchase the Turning Tumble.

  64. Paul Slash

    Many moons ago, there was “fluidic logic” This employed ducted fluids as simple computers, such as FLODAC, a proof of concept from 1964. Molten sodium is a fluid…
    EDIT: At the time, the 60’s, fluidics was a solution in search of a problem. The transistor and the PCB could do more, faster, and kept getting smaller and cheaper. Environment wasn’t an insurmountable issue, so fluidics went on the shelf.

  65. Jason Balius

    Sounds like a good use case for 3D printing for rapid prototyping of small and complex mechanical systems.

  66. KuraIthys

    The thought of a venus rover with a thermally hardened 6502 in it makes me laugh for some reason.
    Quick! Call some demoscene coders! We need them to program our rover!

  67. The Sock Monkey Guy

    Thinking back to my childhood (I’m 62), I remember the “bump ‘n’ go” mechanical toys I had in the 1960s. For the younger generations who might not be familiar with them, these were essentially rover-type vehicles run by a battery-powered DC motor. They had an automatic steering system which was completely mechanical. The vehicle would drive until it encountered an obstacle and then change course and continue in a different direction. Some were even designed to be operated on a tabletop and they would avoid driving off the edges. Granted, there was no intelligence involved in their behavior — their choice of direction upon encountering obstacles was essentially random — but even randomness will still cover ground, and such a rover could be tracked from orbit to correlate data with its location. Perhaps the mechanisms that these toys used could be a reasonable starting point for a Venus rover.

  68. Doctor Medkit

    I’m a little disappointed that a video about Venus probes never mentioned the Soviet Venera missions. We’ve been to the surface of Venus before, but anything outside of NASA gets forgotten.

  69. Helix

    FLUIDICS. Lead-based fluidics!!!

  70. Wisdom Night

    Send a construction worker from Arizona ..whit the heat from there …man those guys dont feel. Anything ..

  71. Maus5000

    I really like that track-propelled rhombus shaped rover. Reminds me very much of WW1 British tanks

  72. Rade-Blunner

    Damn it, I wanted Strandbeests on Venus!
    And also airships!

  73. rrykua

    Commenter: I know better than NASA!
    Scott: Really? Step up!
    Commenter hides.

  74. ravener

    vacuum tubes have to be heated to much higher temperatures to work, passively being hot might actually be a benefit.

  75. Thauã Aguirre

    When my eye glimpsed at the thumbnail, I read “how to E X P L O D E the deadliest planet”.
    Btw. In Venus it rains mercury.
    Isn’t that the most METAL thing in the solar system?

  76. Flying Skyward

    Thermionic valves operate fine at high temperature. Make a 1960s style camera and two way radio using valves, and just drive the thing from orbit

  77. Andrew Hart

    High temperature semi conductors / electronics seems like the most useful goal.

  78. Ummer Farooq

    3:20 – send a mountain goat to Venus.

  79. Buck Starchaser

    I went to build this real quick, since it’s simple… Ended up with a mechanical music box that plays Deja Vu very slowly.

  80. Gierdziu Gaming

    Finally, some REAL technology.
    Every idiot can make a digital rover.
    This is going to be fun!

  81. thundercactus

    “you can’t build a mechanical radio”
    morse code flashing light: “am I a joke to you?”

  82. Nothing\

    Nevermind that. We need to send a cat to the ISS. I think having a cat up there would provide a much needed boost for morale. But somebody needs to design a space diaper for cats first. Cuz I don’t think a litter box would work so good in zero G.

  83. C_O_N_T_E_N_T

    the thing i love about this, is it really shows how narrow the scope of human technology is.
    we may very impressed with what we can do at 50c and 10bar, and as soon as the environment changes its either completely useless or we try to insulate it from the environment so it isnt.
    I wonder how the technological path of discovery in the past 500 years would have progressed differently in an environment this foreign.
    What would we know that we now dont, what do we know now that we wouldnt on the surface of venus.

  84. Geno Merci

    So this is what Clickspring has been working on for the last 6 months….

  85. airgunnut

    radar reflective pales in a certain order to send information, so with all the high tech communication devices we have, we have gone back to using semaphore.

  86. hellcat1988

    I get that it would be complicated as hell, but some kind of craft capable of floating on the clouds and dropping a probe down on a cable to scan the surface and take atmospheric samples would probably have a significantly greater scientific capability for the size and cost to get it there.

  87. Joe

    I don’t know Scott, the amount of time and thought put into some of those designs are perceivably lack luster compared to some of the geniuses in your comment section.

  88. Imad

    oh boi its Charles Babbage time!. DEPLOY THE ANALYTICAL ENGINE

  89. The Deviant Developer IDW Podcast

    Venus Tourist Board:
    “Venus: It’s a Helluva Place”

  90. Allan Richardson

    The idea of using radar reflective “semaphore” actuators reminds me of the hidden Soviet listening device in the US Embassy. The bug sweeps turned up nothing because the bug, hidden inside the Great Seal of the United States on the wall, a “house warming gift” from the Soviets, was nothing but a piece of sheet metal that vibrated with the sounds in the Ambassador’s office. When the Soviets wanted to listen, they aimed a radar beam at this diaphragm and picked up the Doppler shifts on the echoes.
    It was designed by Leo Theremin, inventor of the eponymous touch-free musical instrument, after he redefected back to Russia and was forced to become Stalin’s inventor in chief.

  91. Hydrochloric Acid

    This mechanical rover idea is so delightfully archaic, I love it.

  92. Anders Ryndel

    I’m thinking airship with dipping probe, if we’re going for steam punk appeal: Float to high altitude convert atmosphere to liquid that you use as coolant at lower altitudes, descend and the last few kilometers you have a cable down to the ground. Don’t pay any attention to mission complexity or weight requirements or even basic feasibility for such a scheme.

  93. Anarchy Antz

    The steampunk community collectively rolls up their sleeves and puts their goggles on.

  94. Interdimensional

    “A mechanical computer works in any environment”
    *Dust would like to know your location*

  95. P. Patrick Tukkers

    Let it tumble around in a inflatable shell like Tumbleweed.
    It might give almost random movement, but it is very low tech and effective.

  96. randomnickify

    Where is a protomolecule when you need it.

  97. Quazar501

    Winning Competition: 15.000$
    Sending Rover: > 100.000.000$
    Mad Props: priceless

  98. Disruptive_Innovator

    Rockets that land vertically and mechanical automatons that explore planets… who would have expected that science fiction from the 1920s was the way forward?

  99. Timothy McDaniel

    Missed a great chance to say, “I’m Scott Manley. Fry safe.”

  100. Steve Mclean

    My idea was rejected at the planning stage, someone pointed out it may be because I named It the Automaton Rover for Severe Environments. Highly disappointed 🙁

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