The best way to get to know Venus could be with a fleet of balloons

The best way to get to know Venus could be with a fleet of balloons

An image of the operational concept detailed in the paper. Credit: Rossi et al.

Interest in the exploration of Venus has increased recently, especially after the recent controversial discovery of phosphine, a potential biosignature, in the planet’s atmosphere. Lots of missions to Venus have been proposed, and NASA and the European Space Agency recently funded several of them. However, they are essentially orbiters, trying to peer into the interior of the planet from above. But they face the challenges of having to see through tens of kilometers of the sulfuric acid atmosphere.

This same atmosphere is a challenge for ground missions. While some of the recently funded missions include a component on Earth, they miss an opportunity not afforded on many other planets in the solar system – to ride along the atmosphere. Technologists suggested everything from simplicity balloons For entire floating cities – we’ve even heard of a plan to enclose the entire planet Venus in a shell and live on the surface of that shell.

But for now, balloons’ answer seems to be more straightforward. This is it a task A method proposed by a team of researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to find out more about something confirmed to exist on Venus last week – volcanoes.

Scientists have long believed that there are active volcanoes on Venus. Some ancient probes have collected data that indicates this, but it wasn’t until a recent study analyzing data from Magellan that we learned that the volcanoes on Venus are still active. At this point, it’s anyone’s guess what that means for the study of seismology, evolution, and even the geophysics of the planet. But the proposed JPL balloon The mission will help shed some light on it.

Credit: Universe Today

Their mission design, detailed in a freely released paper on one of the author’s personal websites, involves using a mesh network of balloons and an orbiting satellite to detect and navigate active volcanic events and collect as much data as possible from them. That may seem difficult, especially without humans being “in the loop” and controlling where the balloons go, but it’s definitely better than having them go wherever they go. winds takes them.

It’s much better—63% better at achieving close-up observations of activity or recent activity active volcanoesAccording to team simulation. But how they got to that number could use some additional explanation. First, how can you tell when a volcano on a planet that is completely shrouded from the outside is erupting?

Credit: Universe Today

They suggested using a technique called ultrasonic microbarometers — essentially, these tiny instruments detect pressure differences in the atmosphere caused by volcanic eruptions. If you are looking for a file volcanic eruptionAnalyzing the data from one of these tools can at least point you in the direction of the pressure wave they are creating. Even if you’re pointing in the right direction, how can a balloon that doesn’t have its own active propulsion system get close enough to start collecting data?

According to the newspaper, they can simply ride the wind. Venus’s atmosphere is complex, and different layers may have different directional winds with different speeds. The balloon itself can be raised or lowered in the correct wind current and ride that in the direction of the lunge. It sounds pretty neat, but a single balloon alone wouldn’t necessarily be able to detect wind currents outside of its immediate area, making it difficult, if not impossible, to plan a course toward the volcano. This is where the tangle comes in.

Credit: Universe Today

Orbiting over the planet and looking through atmospheres It has one advantage – it allows the rover to see different wind currents that can be used to direct the balloons in the right direction. Even better, if one of the balloons detects an interesting pressure change but can’t find a way to access it from the local wind condition, the orbiter can relay that information directly to one of the other balloons in the group, which may have a better chance of getting it. There because of their local wind patterns.

Therefore, in addition to serving as a navigator for an individual airship, he can also act as a relay and coordinator for an entire fleet of them.

Humans can still provide assistance, increasing the amount of time near potential sites of interest if they are involved in the balloon system trajectory. But humans also need to eat, sleep, and do things beyond observing distant robotic tentacles response times It can sometimes lead to a lag that makes them unable to take advantage of the current wind conditions. Therefore, an automated system around the planet could be the best and fastest way to find the sensor’s way toward these amazing events.

Once a balloon reaches one of them, they might even be able to drop a payload directly into the volcano’s caldera, gathering invaluable information, however short-lived the mission. Chances are, the hack of finding a single volcano on Venus will pass into scientific history as we begin to understand what made and made our double planet tick.

more information:
Up close exploration of Venus’s volcanoes with teams of buoyancy-controlled balloons:…y.Hook.ea.Acta23.pdf

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