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On March 1, 1982, the Venera 13 lander survived for 127 minutes in an environment with a temperature of 457 °C (855 °F) and a pressure of 89 Earth atmospheres (9.0 MPa). This says nothing of the sulfuric acid in the atmosphere. If we use that temperature and pressure as an example, are there any materials that would be better candidates for a future landing vehicle on Venus?

Even if the material would only increase the mission duration by a couple of hours, I am interested in knowing what sort of material advances we have made since the Venera missions.

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We have plenty of metallic materials that could stand the heat of Venus's atmosphere, including copper, nickel, cobalt, iron, titanium, tungsten, and chromium, to name but a few (here's a list of elemental melting points), as well as a large number of alloys including carbon steel and stainless steel. Even the sulfuric acid isn't a huge problem with some of these metals (tungsten is entirely inert to the stuff), and some alloys perform even better at this. It appears that the standard material for working with sulfuric acid here on Earth is carbon steel, even in extremely high temperature ranges. (From this report--an analysis of the various metals currently used in sulfuric acid manufacturing furnaces)

So the metallic components of a Venus-bound spacecraft really aren't the problem. The limiting factor seems to be the electronics. Even though silicon wont melt at those temperatures, heating up a circuit board to 457°C together with sulfuric acid has repercussions, and will quickly ruin most of the circuitry on the craft. With our current slate of electronics-worthy materials, we are not going to be able to make a circuit board that could survive on Venus.

However, we can insulate the important electronics, and much research has been done on that front since the last Venus mission. In particular, it appears that aerogel materials are being looked at to insulate the circuitry from the combined force of the heat and the sulfuric acid.

From what I can tell, this technology is probably advanced enough to make a craft that, in a perfect scenario, could function fine on Venus for a fairly long time, maybe even as long as the Mars rovers. But there are always kinks to be worked out, and I doubt that we could reasonably expect anything as long-lasting as the Mars rovers for a while.

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    $\begingroup$ Your answer implies that months to years of operation could be achieved purely by thermal insulation. I find that unlikely; and assume some sort of active cooling would be needed as well. $\endgroup$ – Dan Neely Aug 1 '13 at 19:42
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    $\begingroup$ ... which brings up another problem: how would you power the active cooling? Solar energy is a no-go, and anything thermal (including RTG's) suffers from the problem that the cold side is at 457°C. $\endgroup$ – MSalters May 14 '14 at 14:34
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    $\begingroup$ Once the lander gets through enough of the atmosphere, the sulfuric acid becomes far less of an issue. The air is so hot on the surface that the sulfuric acid rain evaporates and never reaches the ground. As for the duration of the rover, the initial plan for Venera-D was that it would be able to survive for 30 days. Due to cost they've scaled it back and their current plan is for it to last about three hours. $\endgroup$ – duzzy Jul 4 '15 at 1:25

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