Hidden Nook

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Tuesday, September 27, 2005



Exploring Mars Via Balloons?


[Media Source*]

(Red Nova) While orbiters can look at virtually any point on the surface of a planet, they lack the resolution provided by instruments on rovers or landers. Rovers, on the other hand, have limited mobility and cannot travel very far from their landing site. [...]

Global Aerospace Corporation of Altadena, CA proposes that the Mars exploration vehicle combining the global reach similar to that of orbiters and high resolution observations enabled by rovers could be a balloon that can be steered in the right direction and that would drop small science packages over the target sites.

It is surprising that this idea, (which is probably ingenious) was never suggested to NASA before. Balloons have been used before to explore other worlds, (such as Venus) and reintroducing them to the Martian world would not only be effective, but inexpensive as well.

After all, sending rovers to space would costs millions (if not tens a millions) while equipping one of these high tech balloons to scan the surface of Mars is probably inexpensive and would probably save much needed funds for other much needed projects (i.e. space elevator).

(Red Nova) Global Aerospace Corporation has designed an innovative device, called Balloon Guidance System (BGS) that enables steering a balloon through the atmosphere. The BGS is an aerodynamic surface -- a wing -- that hangs on a several kilometer-long tether below the balloon. [...]

Floating just several kilometers above the surface of Mars, the guided Mars balloons can observe rock formations, layerings in canyon walls and polar caps, and other features -- at very high resolution using relatively small cameras. They can be directed to fly over specific targets identified from orbital images and to deliver small surface laboratories, that will analyze the site at the level of detail rovers would do.

What makes this balloon more useful than a rover is its ability to scan for methane, which would aid in the search for life on Mars (bacteria size, of coarse). These balloons could also travel to more dangerous regions, such as the Valles Marineris canyon where it would be too steep for a rover to explore (not to mention dangerous for humans as well).



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By Darnell Clayton • 10:45 PM • Email Post • •

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