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Floating Aerobats Could be the Best way to Explore the Cloud of Venus

NASA is helping West Virginia University (WVU) engineers to develop a software that will enable balloon-based aerial robots (aerobots) to survey Venus atmosphere in small fleets. NASA intends to launch lighter-than-air missions to Venus in the future years to examine the atmosphere above the cloud tops, where temperatures are stable and atmospheric pressure is comparable to that of Earth.

Venus was once a very different planet than it is today, according to many lines of evidence. However, some 500 million years ago, a large resurfacing event created a runaway greenhouse effect, resulting in the scorching, poisonous, and hellish environment that exists today. As a result, the study of Venus provides a chance to model the evolution of planetary environments, which can be used to predict what can happen in the future.

Guilherme Pereira and Yu Gu, associate professors at WVU’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, are leading the study. Bernardo Martinez Rocamora Jr., Chizhao Yang, and Anna Puigvert I Juan, two doctoral students in aerospace and mechanical engineering, as well as a master’s student in mechanical engineering, joined them (respectively). A $100,000 grant from NASA’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research is funding their research (EPSCoR).

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