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Future Venus Missions
Phil Stooke
post Jul 1 2005, 01:30 AM
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Oh well, might as well start that new topic since it's already well advanced in the Juno area...

My perspective on landers is as follows. All the landers we've had so far were dropped blind onto an essentially unknown surface. Any future landers can be targeted for specific terrains. It really is not true that we have had representative landings. Even a descent image or two, a panoramic photo plus a bit of surface composition, from a simple Venera-class lander just updated a bit, would be useful if we could put several down at well chosen targets. My choices would be:

Examples of the main plains units (smooth, fractured, ridged)

tesserae

high elevation radar-bright tesserae

large fresh lava flow unit ('fluctus')

crater dark parabola

crater ejecta outflow unit

dunes area.

And I have always assumed, rightly or wrongly, that it would be relatively easy to put these down, so they ought to be fairly inexpensive as planetary landers go.

Phil


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Guest_BruceMoomaw_*
post Jul 1 2005, 09:23 AM
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Well, to repeat a point I've suggested (somewhere) on this site before: given the great additional difficulty of designing a Venus probe if you have to add an airlock to it to allow it ingest samples into its interior, how much good compositional data can you get on Venus' surface WITHOUT such an airlock. A surprising amount, I suspect. A test has already shown that the LIBS system planned for instantaneous, precise and long-distance element measurements on the MSL rover should work just as well in Venus' environment ( ).

On Mars and on airless worlds, this instrument can probably be combined with a Raman spectrometer (which also uses laser light) for a lot of mineralogy studies (although this system wasn't considered quite ripe enough by the LIBS group right now to add it to their proposal for the MSL's LIBS; it's worked fine in ground tests). I'm not sure whether Raman would work as well at long-range in the super-dense Venusian atmosphere -- it relies on measuring an extremely small trace of backscattered laser light -- but even if it doesn't, you could put the fiber-optic connections to a Raman spectrometer and its laser on a simple arm on the lander to contact the local surface in different places. You could also add other gadgets to that arm: a microscopic imager, and maybe even an abrading wheel to grind the weathering crust off Venusian rocks -- which the lander could probably locate on the surface using a simple hardness sensor on the arm.)

Add a panning near-IR spectrometer to the lander (plus a tiltable flashlamp (or broadband laser) to periodically illuminate the surface and allow that spectrometer to distinguish its reflectance spectra from thermal emission spectra), and maybe also a gamma-ray spectrometer inside the lander's hull, and you could answer damn near every important scientific question about Venus' surface -- except for in-situ age dating -- without ANY airlock, and without any need for instruments that require a long time to gather their data (such as X-ray and Mossbauer spectrometers). An X-ray diffractometer like the one on MSL (which also requires ingested samples) could provide additional mineralogy data, but I question whether it's really essential by itself given the Raman and near-IR spectrometers.
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Guest_BruceMoomaw_*
post Jul 1 2005, 09:27 AM
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I see I forgot to provide the URL for the LPSC abstract on the use of LIBS on Venus. *sigh*

http://www.lpi.usra.edu/meetings/lpsc2004/pdf/1338.pdf
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JRehling
post Jul 1 2005, 04:28 PM
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Phil is, of course, completely right about the list of interesting Venus terrains; I think anything but an aerobot approach will leave us a long time in seeing all of them, but a network of four geophysical stations ought to be chosen opportunistically to sample some of the more unusual locations.

A possible Venus exploration gizmo: either an aerobot or a stationary lander that needed a source of artificial light to do spectroscopy despite the incessant IR glow could have microprojectiles that contain nothing but a flash device. This need not require any wet chemistry or electronics whatsoever, or very minimal versions thereof, and therefore be extremely simple and light. An aerobot could drop them, or a stationary lander could eject them several (tens of?) meters away, and then the main craft would image the surface at the time/place of the flash. To get the purest signal, this could be done at night, when only the venusian IR glow would persist. Of course, with-flash and without-flash data would help to get rid of the noise. Perhaps this adds nothing to the LIBS approach -- the question is whether a laser casts its light farther and cheaper and more multispectrally than a "bottlerocket" style of flash. The laser could be used more often, but the flash would allow work at a distance to eliminate all of the scattering problems of the laser and half of the atmospheric absorption. Perhaps an aerobot that is not configured for Venus surface heat, but stays a few km up, could make use of flashes in a circumstance where a laser would require a lower and hotter "perivenus"? Just a thought on the behalf of 13th century technology.
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Guest_Myran_*
post Jul 1 2005, 04:31 PM
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QUOTE (BruceMoomaw wrote.)
....and without any need for instruments that require a long time to gather their data 


I think you are right, a Mössbauer spectrometer of the kind the MER rovers have will not do, whatever instruments a Venus lander will be provided with they need to work rather fast.
Perhaps the robotic arm should work by a simple cog and wheel system moving automatically from point to point and a simple contact that turns of the downward movement as soon it touch hard soil, just in the hope it will get to touch down on more that one kind of mineral and bedrock. Without computerized parts, you wont risk overheating and failure.

If one airconditioned lander survives the first 12 hours or whatever, it should have the ability to download new instructions, so this would indeed be a workable kind of lander.
But I have a hunch that the space agencies never will spend that much money to send any simpler lander that Phil Stooke suggests. When they spend that many millions for the launch and logistics, the administrators will upgrade the lander up to the point where the lander will be one other megabuck marvel in itself.

So that proposal of a really simple non computerized system and Phil Stooke's suggestion might not happen at all, yet I have a hunch that for one inhospitable place like Venus, the best way to go is by the 'keep it simple stupid' thinking. wink.gif
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Guest_BruceMoomaw_*
post Jul 1 2005, 11:28 PM
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The main justification for simplifying a Venus lander is that it can enable you to launch more than one at one time. Larry Esposito's "SAGE" concept -- which, from what little I know about it, apparently DID have both an airlock and a GCMS atmospheric analyzer -- neverthless consisted of two or three landers on one mission.
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AndyG
post Jul 7 2005, 02:39 PM
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Given that the surface is so hot and so highly pressured, why not take a leaf from the early explorers of the ocean bottoms? Dredge for rocks!

Picture a balloon flying in Venusian atmosphere at about the 32km level. This height is good since it's below the bulk of the cloud cover, giving you the ability to view the surface. Pressure is around 8bar and the temperature is around 200C. Not really a problem for well-designed electronics & balloon materials. Water doesn't automatically boil at this pressure/temp, so may be useful for radiators.

A thin titanium wire, with a basic end effector, could be winched down from a balloon at this height to pick up suitable rocks for analysis back within the balloon. A wire some 1.32 mm across, tapering to around 1mm at the bottom, would in total mass about 160kg, and enable a load of about 20kg to be lifted, assuming some 5kg mass for a grabber/hardened camera, etc.

100kg of lift in a CO2 atmosphere could be provided with just under 8 cubic metres of H2 in the balloon, so the size of the bag could be really quite trivial.

Andy G
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Bob Shaw
post Jul 7 2005, 02:54 PM
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As there are some fairly well-described outline designs for RTG-powered refrigerated landers, I find myself wondering whether the waste heat from the refrigeration system could be used to produce lift in a hot-air balloon. An almost mechanically inert (in terms of externals - obviously, there's pumps and whatnots beavering away inside!) lander could drift around the landscape, rising from time to time then falling once more. Think of a Galilean Thermomoter, and the way the glass spheres bob up and down...

You'd get:

Multiple ground-truth sites
Aerial imaging
Meteorology

And probably a few other goodies, too!


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JRehling
post Jul 7 2005, 08:18 PM
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QUOTE (Bob Shaw @ Jul 7 2005, 07:54 AM)
As there are some fairly well-described outline designs for RTG-powered refrigerated landers, I find myself wondering whether the waste heat from the refrigeration system could be used to produce lift in a hot-air balloon.  An almost mechanically inert (in terms of externals - obviously, there's pumps and whatnots beavering away inside!) lander could drift around the landscape, rising from time to time then falling once more.  Think of a Galilean Thermomoter, and the way the glass spheres bob up and down...

You'd get:

Multiple ground-truth sites
Aerial imaging
Meteorology

And probably a few other goodies, too!
*


It'd be great if it worked, but of course, the refrigeration scheme itself involves a lot of mass per payload mass.

Venus permits a lot of buoyancy, potentially, especially if helium filled the balloon, but that margin could be eaten up with a nuclear-powered refrigerator + thermal insulation + ???

Also, heated CO2 would not give you much buoyancy compared to helium unless you really heated the hell out of it. Venus's high ambient temperature really works against that. To halve the density of CO2, you'd have to double the temperature, up to roughly 1000K! I'm no material scientist, but I guess you're talking about fewer and fewer possible balloon materials that will hold up as a strong, thin film when boosted to white heat!

I think compressing and uncompressing helium (at thermal equilibrium with the outside) would provide a *lot* more lift with less mass. Although, I understand and admire you're looking for synergy between a design side-effect and a possible desirable feature.

The synergy you get in design with Venus balloons is that the higher a balloon resides, the cooler the ambient temperature that must be withstood. If thermal inertia (passive!) can keep the system alive throughout a single exploratory drop, then we might have systems that can only tolerate the Venusian surface environment temporarily, but long enough for an arbitrary number of descents. The Veneras operated in this fashion. A balloon carrying a heat sink could reach thermal equilibrium at 40-100 C. Then the question is: How much time would be required in a surface stay to do useful science? For imagery, very little. To grab a sample, very little. It is possible, in times of favorable geometry, to work a single telemetry/command feedback loop with Earth-based controllers in just a few minutes. (Transmit an image, ask which rock/soil unit should be grabbed, and receive that command -- the AI for that is beyond MER, but not beyond reason.) If a ~45-minute surface stay is well within safe margins for thermal constraints, then that's not a bad MO. If descents could be managed at roughly the rate of one per day, then a lot of surface exploration could take place in a primary mission of two or three weeks.

The whole scheme then could be to identify a swath across one line of latitude of Venus that contains several worthwhile terrain units that are, moreover, going to be in local daylight with a line-of-sight to Earth during a desired primary mission. The craft would control its horizontal motion by ascending into local winds, thereby deriving the horizontal motion. The heat sink would get well below top operating temperature, and then the craft would perform a dive to its target. It would take descent images and a single surface panorama, beam them to Earth, and autonomously perform surface science while awaiting a command from Earth identifying which surface patch to sample by arm. After about 20 minutes, the human-made decision would reach the craft, an arm would make a grab for the target, and then the craft would ascend again, and spend its time analyzing the sample up in the cool heights above. An exploration of terrains in the vicinity of 150 E, moving along the equator or 10 S -- could be a heck of a mission, with lots of geological and "remote" sensing of many terrains. Of course, if a pair of these things could be afforded, working at different latitudes but identical longitudes in the same time frame, then a very thorough exploration would result.
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Guest_BruceMoomaw_*
post Jul 8 2005, 01:58 AM
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Actually, this type of mission -- a balloon using "reversible fluids" to achieve controllable variable buoyancy with a surprisingly low use of both gas and power, spenjding most of its time in the clouds but dipping periodically all the way to the surface briefly -- has been studied by JPL for years as the "Venus Geoscience Aerobot". I've just found two very detailed descriptions of it that I wasn't even aware were on the Web (including Martha Gilmore's article, of which she privately sent me a less developed version YEARS ago. Apparently it took her that long to get Acta Astronautica to publish the damn thing.)

http://techreports.jpl.nasa.gov/1999/99-0750.pdf
http://www.planetary.brown.edu/planetary/documents/2056.pdf

If this balloon design is workable, then obviously this has tremendous merit as a New Frontiers or Small Flagship mission. (One can easily conceive of an improved version, which uses LIBS and Raman spectrometers for its brief surface analyses rather than an X-ray spectrometer as she suggests -- or which actually deploys a core tube or scoop to snatch a surface sample for later leisurely onboard analysis, like JPL's recent Titan Organics Explorer concept: http://www.lpi.usra.edu/opag/feb_05_meetin...resentation.pdf .)

Unfortunately, that seems to be a a very big "if", judging from Kerzhanovich's recent LPSC piece ( http://www.lpi.usra.edu/meetings/lpsc2005/pdf/1223.pdf ), in which he says flatly: "A key problem is that at the time the decadal survey
was published, no high temperature balloon technology existed to implement either mission. Prior technology development efforts had concentrated on a
single balloon that could operate across the entire 0-60 km altitude range, tolerating both the sulfuric acid aerosols and the extreme temperatures of -10 to +460 ºC. However, this problem was unsolved because no combination of sufficiently lightweight balloon material and manufacturing (seaming) technology was ever found to tolerate the high temperatures at the surface." If, as this implies, polybezoxasole can't be adequately seamed after all, then we're stuck with his suggestion for a near-surface steel-bellows ballon whose instrument package must endure Venusian surface tempartures for o very long periods -- which will require new electronics technology, as the Solar System Roadmap says.
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Bob Shaw
post Jul 8 2005, 02:47 PM
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Bruce:

Very interesting - you are a fount of knowledge!

The nice thing about hot-air balloons is that they have a natural homeostasis, and can tolerate leaks so long as you can keep adding heat - pressure altitude bursts etc are also naturally avoided by virtue of the big open cavity. Some of the recent terrestrial around-the-world (etc) manned ballooon flights have also used hybrid structures, with a helium bladder surrounded by a hot-air envelope.

As for materials, an open-bottomed stainless steel structure could be extended at altitude when cool (think of one of those nested metal travelling drink cup affairs crossed with an umbrella made out of Webb Telescope hexagons), with some sort of caulking around the edges like an intumescent strip on a fire-door and then used as an aerobrake to the surface. On the way down, it heats up, the caulking melts in place, the metal expands and suddenly there's a balloon. Well, a balloon made for a deep-sea furnace, anyway...

If there's an active refrigeration system aboard the lander then it'd run *hot* at the radiator end - the darn thing'd have to be much hotter than ambient, and that's red heat, so we're looking at a ready energy source for bobbing around the landscape, even with CO2. The killer would be to get up into the cool air again to dump as much heat as possible, or else you'd end up floating at some gradually decaying height while your electronics and mechanicals slowly baked. Think of the remote sensing fun at 5kmh at 300m altitude for a month, though!

Speaking of balloons, have you ever come across any serious commentary on the VEGA Soviet/French balloons? About all I've found are brief mentions...

Bob Shaw


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Bob Shaw
post Jul 8 2005, 03:03 PM
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Among the interesting points in the .PDFs to which Bruce posted links are:

A wind-turbine to provide power for night-side operations

Pre-ordained trajectories for geological traverses

Very-high resolution surface imaging


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Bob Shaw
post Jul 20 2005, 01:45 PM
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A conceptual small Venus atmosphere probe picture from 1979, intended to allow a slow descent of a (fairly) long-lived vehicle under a balloon.
Attached thumbnail(s)
Attached Image
 


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remcook
post Jul 20 2005, 01:53 PM
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ESA is looking at a mission that is using a balloon that will stay afloat by dropping microprobes along the way. So you get both balloon and probe. Pretty neat idea.

found a website...

http://sci.esa.int/science-e/www/object/in...fobjectid=35987
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Guest_BruceMoomaw_*
post Nov 6 2005, 02:15 AM
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NASA's Venus Exploration Analysis Group (VEXAG) -- the new equivalent of MEPAG and OPAG -- held its first meeting yesterday in Pasadena ( http://www.lpi.usra.edu/vexag/vexag.html ). While I missed the morning session because I had to catch the final part of the COMPLEX meeting, I did manage to catch the afternoon session.

Unfortunately, not much was said then -- except that the subgroup that deals with "Planetary Formation and Evolution" (that is, surface studies as opposed to atmosphere studies) came up, during a session at the meeting itself, with what Steve Mackwell regards as a very good initial list of desired science measurements, along with information on how technologically difficult they will be. In the next two weeks, the subgroup will prioritize and finalize this list, and he's promised to send their conclusions to me -- although I imagine I'll be using those in my "Astronomy" article and so may not be free to announce them here. (I will say that he agreed with me that, since the minimal estimate for the cost of a Venus sample return is $10 billion, Congress will fund that mission on about the same day that O.J. finds the real killers. We will have to settle for in-situ measurements instead.)

Mewanwhile, three of the Powerpoint presentations from the meeting have just been put on its site at http://www.lpi.usra.edu/vexag/1st_comm_meeting.html . Three of them are disappointing, but there's a very nicely detailed description of the precise measurments that MESSENGER will make during its second Venus fyby in June 2007. (The instruments will be off during the first one in Oct. 2006, because it's near solar conjunction and the flyby is rather distant anyway).
http://www.lpi.usra.edu/vexag/Nov2005/MESSENGER_VEXAG.pdf
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