Inside a windowless concrete room in Cleveland, Ohio, scientists have built a tiny version of Hell on Earth.
Called the Glenn Extreme Environments Rig (GEER), the 14-ton steel chamber can faithfully recreate the toxic, choking, and scorching-hot conditions on the surface of Venus — a once-habitable twin of Earth gone very, very wrong.
Scientists at the NASA Glenn Research Center, where GEER is located, have been developing the project for the past 5 years and fired it up for the first time in 2014. Since then, researchers have lengthened their test runs and exposed all kinds of metals, ceramics, wires, mesh, plating, and electronics to conditions on "Venus" to see what lasts — and what dissolves into dust.
"In March 2015, we spent roughly 100 days at the surface of Venus, and the longest single stretch was 42 days," Lori Arnett, NASA's facility manager for GEER, told Business Insider.
Their hope? Learn how to build spacecraft that can last months or even years on Venus instead of being destroyed almost instantly.
"One of the last probes to visit Venus was Venera 13 in , and it only survived for about 2 hours and 7 minutes," said Gustavo Costa, a chemist and materials scientist who's working with GEER. "Venus is very, very corrosive."
Until a modern spacecraft drops through the planet's thick atmosphere again and explores the surface, GEER is the best way to ask what it's actually like there.
"It's like Hell on Earth," Costa said. "It's very harsh."
Venus is Earth's deadly twin
The second planet from the sun was, and still is, very similar to Earth.