Optimizing aerobot exploration of Venus
Ford, Kevin S.
Dell, Robert F.
Eagle, James N.
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Venus Flyer Robot (VFR) is an aerobot—an autonomous balloon probe—designed for remote exploration of Earth's sister planet in 2003. VFR's simple navigation and control system permits travel to virtually any location on Venus, but it can survive for only a limited duration in the harsh Venusian environment. To help address this limitation, we develop: (1) a global circulation model that captures the most important characteristics of the Venusian atmosphere; (2) a simple aerobot model that captures thermal restrictions faced by VFR at Venus; and (3) one exact and two heuristic algorithms that, using abstractions (1) and (2), construct routes making the best use of VFR's limited lifetime. We demonstrate this modeling by planning several small example missions and a prototypical mission that explores numerous interesting sites recently documented in the planetary geology literature.
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