A US aerospace company is planning to build an inflatable propeller plane that could fly through Venus's atmosphere in 2021.
The ambitious project would see the plane cruise through the sulfurous skies of Venus for years, sampling the acidic alien atmosphere directly and observe the venusian surface from 50 kilometres up.
However, the plane faces a battle to get USD 1 billion in funding from NASA in order to get off the ground.
Called the Venus Atmospheric Maneuverable Platform (VAMP), the concept for the vehicle is currently being drawn up by the company Northrop Grumman. VAMP would have a wingspan of 55 metres with an estimated top speed of 220km/h.
The ground temperature on Venus hovers around 460 degrees Celsius. Ambient surface pressure is about 90 Earth atmospheres, 'Space News' reported.
"Surviving on the surface for any longer than four hours and getting high-resolution data is a challenge," said Constantine Tsang, a researcher at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado.
VAMP, however, would fly in a more forgiving environment.
It would be flown 50 to 70km above the surface of Venus, in a region of the atmosphere where the pressure is roughly equal to that on Earth.
The temperature at that altitude on Venus is about 15 degrees Celsius.
The plane would be carried to Venus by a spacecraft, and upon arriving in orbit around the planet, it would detach and enter the atmosphere by itself.
The next New Frontiers competition is set to begin in the US government's 2016 fiscal year, which starts October 1.
The winning mission would have to be ready for launch around 2021.