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NASA has recently released plans for building a ‘clockwork rover’ based on the incredible 2,300-year-old Antikythera mechanism—the world’s oldest analog computer—which could survive conditions on Venus.
It doesn’t matter if we are to explore the depths of our oceans, or distant alien worlds in the universe. In order to explore new territories, mankind must rely on technology that can survive where humans cannot.
However, there are some environments—like Venus—where machines, just as humans are not able to survive. Due to the extreme heat, high pressure and massive clouds of sulfuric acid electronic systems simply can’t survive.
In order to change this, experts are developing a device that will allow us to explore the most hazardous environments. Experts will base their development on the design of the 2,300-year-old mechanical computer.
The futuristic rover— Automaton Rover for Extreme Environments (AREE)—is totally inspired by the ancient Antikythera mechanism—the most advanced ancient computer that according to experts, accurately predicted past and future astronomical events.
Discovered in 1900 among the remains of a shipwreck, and regarded as the first computer made by humans, the Antikythera mechanism remained a mystery for almost a century, until in 2006 British and American scientists began to figure out how the artifact, composed of about thirty gears worked. It is believed to have been created by the ancient Greeks sometime between 200 and the 100 BC. All known fragments of the Antikythera mechanism are kept at the National Archaeological Museum, in Athens.
The new rover pulls inspiration from the ancient Antikythera mechanism, an ancient device that could help us explore alien worlds.
So far, nearly all rovers which have landed on Venus have not been able to survive more than a few hours on the surface. The most durable rover properly functioned just 127 minutes.
However, according to Discover Magazine, using a clockwork computer and a body made from hardened metals, the AREE could be strong enough to take on the 800 degrees Fahrenheit surface temperatures of Earth’s ‘evil twin’ Venus
AS explained by experts, the new rover could basically function WITHOUT electronic, solely relying on wind energy harvested from its turbine.
The rover would be able to move thanks to mechanical legs, guided by a mechanical computer and logic system that has specifically been programmed for that mission. The rover would be able to collect the most basic data from Venus-like conditions on the surface, wind speeds, temperature and seismic events.
However, experts warn that sending the data back to Earth could prove to be a problem. In order to transmit data back to Earth, experts have proposed several possibilities. One of them is using phonograph-style records that would eventually be launched by balloon towards a high altitude drone.
Furthermore, experts also suggest using a retroreflecter to bounce signals from the surface.
“Automata could be the key for unlocking the secrets for some of the most extreme environments in the solar system such as the surface of Venus,” the proposal explained.
“This science data is critical for informing models of dynamic planetary systems.”