TECH

Inflatable Venus Plane Could Swoop Over The Skies Of Red-Hot Planet

04/03/2014 11:46 GMT | Updated 04/03/2014 11:59 GMT

A giant inflatable plane could be cruising the skies of Venus sooner than you'd imagine.

Engineers have drawn up plans for a new type of spacecraft that combines powered flight with 'passive' floating.

Called the Venus Atmospheric Maneuverable Platform (VAMP), it would soar through the skies collecting vast amounts of data on the planet's atmosphere.

What's really exciting about the project is that it's feasible with technology available today.

Northrop Grumman's - one of the collaborators on the project along with L'Garde - Kristen Griffin said: "There are no major technology unknowns.

"It really is something that could be developed when the [scientific] community is ready for it."

The craft would be able to fly for up to a year with the key to its endurance being its incredibly low weight. Despite having a 46 metre wingspan it would only weigh 450 kg.

It would not be alone on its mission either - it would need to hitch a ride with a carrier spacecraft to reach Venus.

Once there its solar panels would power flight during the day, when it would reach heights of 43 miles, before gliding down to lower altitudes at night.

This would have a number of advantages over a rover-style mission like Curiosity on Mars.

First, the entry onto the planet would be far less risky as the Curiosity 'Sky Crane'. Then there are the specific conditions on Venus, which are far more favourable in the air than the incredibly hot surface.