Ep 385: Rovers on the Run

Mars Exploration Rover. Image credit: NASA/JPL

Mars Exploration Rover. Image credit: NASA/JPL

Taking pictures of distant worlds is great and all, but the best science happens with boots on the ground. Or in this case… wheels. This week we’ll talk all about robotic rovers and the places they rove.

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Announcer This episode of Astronomy Cast is brought to you by Swinburne Astronomy Online, the world’s longest running online astronomy degree program. Visit Astronomy.SWIN.edu.au for more information.

Fraser Cain: Astronomy Cast episode 385, Rovers on the Run. Welcome to Astronomy Cast, our weekly facts-based journey through the cosmos. We help you understand not only what we know but how we know what we know. My name is Fraser Cain. I’m the publisher of Universe Today and with me is Dr. Pamela Gay, a professor at Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville and the director of CosmoQuest. Hey, Pamela, how you doing?

Dr. Pamela Gay: I’m doing well. How are you doing, Fraser?

Fraser Cain: I am doing awesome. So are there any notes this week? One, you should totally listen to the Weekly Space Hangout if you aren’t already. We’re into the new season. The first episode that we did was with Alan Stern from Pluto New Horizons which was just – it was awesome.

And we also – and then last week we talked to Professor Sara Seager from MIT and talked about hunting for planets amongst other great space news. And Pamela, you were there so if you haven’t already, go ahead and subscribe to the Weekly Space Hangout in addition to Astronomy Cast, because now the feeds have been separated.

And, in fact, if you are listening to it on iTunes, etcetera, if you could go in and give it a review, that would be awesome because it actually hasn’t gotten very many reviews and so people can’t really find it. So that would be really helpful.

Dr. Pamela Gay: And as another note, mostly because I’m wearing it, for those of you who are listening this is fairly useless but I’m about to stand up and show off the shirt I’m wearing. I am team Ceres. I am very sad that everybody was like, Pluto used to be a planet and no one remembers Ceres used to be a planet.

Well, over at AstroGear.Spreadshirt.com we have all of your Team Pluto and Team Ceres needs covered. You can go pick up a Planet Pluto Classic shirt, a Ceres, The Other Former Planet shirt and a bunch of other stuff. So I’m a big fan of parodies. Go check out what I do when I am tired and can’t sleep. So I’m willing to show off my shirt for those looking.

Fraser Cain: That is awesome. Ceres, the Other Former Planet. All right. Well, let’s get on with the show.

Announcer: This episode of Astronomy Cast is brought to you by 8th Light, Inc. 8th Light is an agile software development company. They craft beautiful applications that are durable and reliable. 8th Light provides disciplined software leadership on demand and shares its expertise to make your project better. For more information visit them online at www.8thlight.com. Just remember that’s www dot the digit 8 T-H L-I-G-H-T dot com. Drop them a note. 8th Light, software is their craft.

Fraser Cain: [Inaudible] [00:03:12] Fraser here. So once again, we are pleased to thank Casper Mattresses for supporting Astronomy Cast. And for those of you who have been following the story, I really – they gave us a sample mattress for us to try out and be able to get some experience so we feel comfortable promoting them on Astronomy Cast. And I had this one sent to my girlfriend’s house in the United States. And then since having, you know, come back to Canada and have it here in Canada.

And so I ended up – because my mattress – my king size mattress was falling apart. So I ordered another one, my own money. So I’m not sure who’s sponsoring whom now. Well, I love that one so much that I ended up buying another one for the spare bedroom downstairs because it was falling apart and kinda nasty. So now I’ve kinda purchased two mattresses from Casper and now I’m sort of looking at the kids’ beds next.

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And the way they deliver it is kinda magical because it is – it’s an amazing kinda latex foam memory foam that they mash together with some kinda machine into this tiny box. And so when you get it you open up the box and the whole thing just sort of unfurls and produces this normal size mattress. It’s pretty amazing.

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Taking pictures of distant worlds is great and all, but the best science happens with boots on the ground, or in this case, wheels. This week we’ll talk all about robotic rovers and the places they rove.

All right. So I think everyone is so familiar with Curiosity and Opportunity and Spirit. But these aren’t the only rovers and these aren’t the first rovers. This concept of roving on another planet has been going on for quite a while. So can you sort of go back into the history files and talk about what was the first rover concept that was implemented?

Dr. Pamela Gay: The first successful one was Lunokhod which was one of the Russian series of rovers. And even though it launched well, well before we were born, well, well, well, like, long ago in 1970, which to some people may not be long ago, but for me it is, this little rover held the distance record up until the Mars exploration rovers overcame it. And that’s just kind of amazing to think about.

So, yeah, the Soviets basically mastered the fly-by-wire concept, went up to the moon. They had two separate rovers. There were a couple of others that were built. One didn’t make it, the other one didn’t fly but they certainly did their job.

Now amusingly, America in its – or the United States of America, to be accurate, in its desire to make its own point about roving the moon calls the dune buggies the astronauts drove rovers. And really they’re dune buggies with e string piano wires for tires. But they’re really dune buggies, not rovers. So, yeah, the first really cool robotic get-it-done was the Soviet series.

Fraser Cain: Right. And so just for anyone who maybe is – doesn’t have a picture of the rover in front of them, what kind of a structure – what do these things look like?

Dr. Pamela Gay: Electronic bugs is how my brain always thinks of them. And in the case of the Lunokhod one, actually this awesome little tiny Lego model of it, it has these eight little wheels on axes that would be – the axes could each independently tilt. So instead of having to have a tread system, it just had a whole series of wheels back to back to back to deal with the crazy terrain.

And then on top of this is basically a saucepan with a lid that tilts on a hinge. It’s this little conical area with a plate for a hat and a lid that flips backwards and has solar panels on the inside of the lid. It’s really kind of adorable in a I’m-a-robot-bug kind of way.

Fraser Cain: Right. I sort of think of it like a ladybug if a ladybug’s back would – or like a turtle, right. Imagine a turtle with its shell would sort of flip back open and then that’s where the solar panel was. And it would sort of – and it would sort of –

Dr. Pamela Gay: It’s just mutant with eight legs.

Fraser Cain: Right, right. And it would rover around. But the big distinction with these rovers and the ones that we’re all familiar with is that they were fly-by-wire, right. There was an operator in the Soviet Union who was piloting this thing.

Dr. Pamela Gay: Right. And this is part of why they were able to get the distance record and hold it for so long is the moon’s not that far away. We’re looking at a little over a second one-direction light travel time. And so, yeah, the operator would happily sit in his nice safe control room in the Soviet Union, look at the information coming down from the spacecraft. And basically it’s just like driving a really laggy character in your favorite online video game. So think about what it’s like to play with lag and in this case you’re dodging rocks instead of sword fights.

Fraser Cain: Right. So you’re not gonna win any death matches but it’s possible to actually rove this rover around. Yeah, and it went – what’s the final distance – 39 kilometers.

Dr. Pamela Gay: Which is pretty impressive for a robot.

Fraser Cain: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah, that’s crazy. So what came next?

Dr. Pamela Gay: Well so, like I said, we had America making pretend that our astronaut-driven rovers with four wheels and an engine count as rovers. I mock them with a smile.

Fraser Cain: Right.

Dr. Pamela Gay: I mock them with a smile.

Fraser Cain: Imagine like Mark Rotney driving around the Curiosity rover to make it go.

Dr. Pamela Gay: Yes, except less power.

Fraser Cain: Yeah.

Dr. Pamela Gay: So then we had – the Soviets did then attempt to do the Mars thing with both fly-by-wire, which is a bit harder when your planet is tens of minutes away, as well as automated commands. It was schedule for release in 1973 but it – yeah, it launched but never got there. So there was that.

And then pretty much everyone ignored Mars until the late ’90s. It’s really weird. There’s this gap from early ’70s to late ’90s when not a lot of planetary exploration went on. And then finally in the late ’90s we had the Mars Sojourner rover and Pathfinder. And they’ve literally blazed the way with their technological tests to allow us to get OP and Spirit up.

Fraser Cain: I mean, the – oh, what do they call it – the Mars Goblin – what is the thing that eats all the spacecraft that try to go to Mars? People watching and listening know exactly what I’m talking about. Anyway, there’s sort of a mythological creature that destroys and eats all of the spacecraft that try to go to Mars. And there was this horrible run back in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s where spacecraft after spacecraft – most of the Soviet ones all just died in horrible ways.

And – but the Soviet Mars 2 and 3 Landers had this great little teeny, tiny rover that was gonna be on it. And it was gonna rove across the surface of Mars. And it had – it was like a children’s toy. It had these skis on the side of it and then the skis would sorta flip over and then it would sort of push itself forward a little bit. And then the skis would flip over and it would sort of flop its way across the Martian landscape. And unfortunately they never made it and so they never got that information.

But it’s strange that they got rid of the concept of the roving and went to this weird ski design but it never [inaudible] [00:12:45] –

Dr. Pamela Gay: They went back. I –

Fraser Cain: Yeah, yeah.

Dr. Pamela Gay: — so Mars rover with Pathfinder and Sojourner brought the cute back to space exploration.

Fraser Cain: Is that what’s really important to you is that we need to have –

Dr. Pamela Gay: No, it’s not but it does make trying to communicate it to the public fun. And there is something to be said about doing science that makes you violently giggle. And there is violent giggling involved in Pathfinder and Sojourner because this is the spacecraft that they covered in bouncy balls, dropped and let it just kinda bounce all the heck over the place. And then it kind of righted itself.

And Pathfinder spread out its little platforms and started acquiring data. And little tiny Sojourner, which is like the size of a kid’s Tonka truck went rolling away. And they continued the silly by naming rocks Yogi Bear and things like that. But they did this fabulous tech check. They innovated the whole idea of bouncing your way into a safe landing and got us set with, yes, we now actually do know how to safely explore the surface of Mars. And without bouncy little Pathfinder and happy little Sojourner we wouldn’t have OP and Spirit.

Fraser Cain: Yeah, the design for Opportunity and Spirit just follows that exact same platform, this idea of using the big airbag system to land. And this is – I mean, this is part of the big problem that we’re gonna face in the coming decades of trying to send larger and larger payloads to Mars, right, is that the thickness of the atmosphere on Mars is thick enough to cause anything to be destroyed but thin enough that it doesn’t really provide you any good arrow breaking.

And so you just – you either smash on the surface of Mars or you get incinerated by the atmosphere and there’s no happy medium like we have here on earth. You can’t just fly down the way you can. And so these landing concepts figured out by Pathfinder and then followed up by Spirit and Opportunity are terrific and a really great solution to this middle problem. Let it bounce on a big balloon across the surface.

Dr. Pamela Gay: And it went to this fabulous little six-legged design that got kept and introduced the whole idea of a nice flat little beetle that is covered in solar panels. And then with Mars Exploration Rover program they added that long neck with the two eyes at the top that gives stereoscopic vision. There was a bit of an arm on Sojourner. There’s one heck of an arm on Spirit and Opportunity.

And the whole idea of having a suite of cameras including all of those wheel navigation cameras, that has proven to be so fundamentally important to how the rovers have safely, until Spirit got stuck in the dirt, have been able to safely traverse the red planet.

Fraser Cain: Well, let’s talk a bit about the control system because we mentioned because the Lunokhod rover was so close to earth on the moon, it really could be a video game that you’d be driving around the lunar surface. But in the case of Spirit and Opportunity and Curiosity and Sojourner you’ve got this huge delay, 20 minutes more –

Dr. Pamela Gay: — or more.

Fraser Cain: — yeah, to communicate between earth and Mars. So how do they deal with that?

Dr. Pamela Gay: Well, Sojourner, which was a technological test bed, it was very much a take a whole bunch of photos, look at the photos and then program the mission. You will do this, you will do this, you will do this. It’s a lot like student robotics competitions where you’re given your field of play. And then based on that piece of paper that tells you what your field of play is gonna look like, you program your robot accordingly.

With Sprit and Opportunity, they’ve updated the programming a lot overtime. And it’s gotten very much to the point of they give it an idea of thou shalt go this far, make sure that you don’t hit this thing. So be aware you’re gonna need to hang a left and go around it this direction.

But it’s more like the kind of directions I’d give you. So head to the store, go this way but watch out, there’s construction along this route so you wanna hang a left, go around this tree. And with Spirit and Opportunity it got to the point where the navigation cameras on the wheels were looking out for rocks. It was able to do a certain amount of intelligence to go, okay, I need to avoid this thing I wasn’t specifically told how to handle. And I can figure out how to handle that specific thing on my own.

Fraser Cain: Right. And I guess the problem is because all the computing has to be done on the rover itself, it’s not like you can do that processing, the self driving back on earth and send the information back and forth. The lag is just too long. You’ve gotta have that intelligence on the actual rover.

Dr. Pamela Gay: And video processing is one of those things where we are, as humans, capable of looking at a surface and telling fairly reasonably whether or not it’s painted with speckles or covered with small rocks. We have that capacity. Now, trying to program a rover to tell the difference between sand that is mottled with different colors and a red surface covered in small black pebbles, you have to be able to do that.

You have to be able to get each of those tires to successfully go, oh hey, I’ve got an obstacle over here. Entire spacecraft, you need to pay attention. There’s a lot of machine learning that also goes into all of this.

Fraser Cain: I just did a quick search. So the Spirit and Opportunity had 128 megs of RAM onboard and 256 megs of flash memory. Curiosity has 256 megs of RAM and two gigabytes of flash memory. So they’re not super fast computing.

So we talked about Spirit and Opportunity and of course we’ve done shows about just those rovers themselves. Spirit we lost, Opportunity is still going and going. But NASA took all the things that it learned and then built Curiosity, the Mars science laboratory.

Dr. Pamela Gay: And Curiosity doesn’t just built on the Mars exploration rovers and Pathfinder. It also builds on things that we learned with the Mariners before in terms – and the Vikings before, especially with the Vikings where we had issues of if you try this thing you will get inconclusive chemical results. Therefore do not try that exact same thing again.

So there is a lot of thought that went into how do we build the ovens, how do we build the – everything basically. This is a spacecraft that has to know how to poop. When you hear people talking about everything poops, well, that happens to include Mars Curiosity because it will scoop up a sample, run a variety of tests on the sample. And in the past we’ve had spacecraft that scooped up a sample and then they had the sample.

But Curiosity’s hopefully going to be doing a whole bunch of samples over a long, long time. You don’t wanna be carrying around all that dirt forever so it had to know how to empty out its ovens, empty out its sample containers. If that gets stuck we can’t keep doing samples, so that would be a really bad thing.

So we had experience from all these different spacecraft that all got combined into this one stereoscopic-viewing, six-legged –

Fraser Cain: — nuclear-powered –

Dr. Pamela Gay: And that nuclear power is actually highly controversial. So one of the things – like I knew it was radio powered because I’ve heard a lot of the people who work in the outer solar system complaining about how it’s just a waste of the nuclear isotopes to send it to the inner planets. And I was like, okay, but you need a lot of power to run the ovens and everything.

But one of the things that if you read the NASA websites, a lot of them are talking about, well, this should last for 14 years. Spirit and Opportunity were the little Energizer bunnies until Spirit got stuck. But Opportunity’s still going and we’re going on a decade-ish of Opportunity roving. So 14 years sounds pretty good.

But when you start reading – like there’s a critical review of it over at MIT, and when you read the critical technology reviews you start seeing people expressing concern of its specked to last a minimum of one Mars year, which is two earth years. And that might be all we get. And so I’m hoping the 14 years is more true but there is that potential that whether it be 14 or 2, because it’s a radio thermal generator which does at some point use up all of the half lives of those isotopes, Opportunity might still be continuing to rove on its lack of all wheels working while Curiosity sits a frozen lump on the Martian surface.

Fraser Cain: Yeah, I mean, I think I’ve seen estimates that it could last five, six years. The RTG will last 10, 12, 15 years but apparently at the end of like 10 years the amount of energy is gonna be down to like 100 watts. So it’s gonna have a hard time generating enough energy to do the things that it did at the beginning when it had its full power. And so it might not be able to move anymore and so it’s gonna turn into more of a –

Dr. Pamela Gay: — a stationery science –

Fraser Cain: — yeah, like say the Polar Lander and things like that, the Phoenix Lander [inaudible] [00:23:22] –

[Crosstalk]

Dr. Pamela Gay: Well, you can still do good science. Spirit sure did a lot of good science until it froze. But, yeah, it’s so much more powerful to be able to go, I have a rock from here and I have a rock from here. And we want all the rocks, all of the rocks.

Fraser Cain: Now, there is another rover that most people forget about that has been launched since and is still operating, I think.

Dr. Pamela Gay: Chang’e 3?

Fraser Cain: Yeah, on the moon.

Dr. Pamela Gay: Yeah, I think it actually has powered down by now. It was only supposed to last for three months. It went up a couple of years ago but it didn’t get any news attention. So it landed on December 14, 2013. It was a couple days after my birthday, which is why I have firm memories of when it went up. It got there, it behaved, it did its job and then it eventually powered down. But it got almost no fanfare. It was very sad. It worked. They got it right the first try.

Fraser Cain: Yeah, there was great photographs of the lunar surface. It took some great pictures of itself.

Dr. Pamela Gay: Yeah.

Fraser Cain: Emily Lakdawalla did great coverage of what was happening with Chang’e 3. Yeah, so as of March, 2015 the rover was immobile and its instruments are degrading but it’s still communicating with earth radio stations.

Dr. Pamela Gay: And Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter did a Christmas day photo of it back in 2013, so you can actually see exactly where it is in context in the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter images.

Fraser Cain: Yeah, so that’s sort of the sweet of rovers that have been sent so far. But of course we also like to talk a bit about the future. So what kinds of plans have been made, what kinds of mission concepts are in the works for future – now I’m gonna expand it, you know, because I wish to include some of the more interesting concepts as well, hoppers, airplanes, helicopters, worms, all kind of crazy concepts, sailboats.

Dr. Pamela Gay: Yeah, that’s not a rover but, okay. So the next rovers that we’re likely to see are going to come from one of two places. The one place that we might see it next is Chandra Ontu which is an Indian mission which is – well, it’s actually a joint mission between India and Russia. And it’s nominally slated for sometime this year. I’m not sure where they stand in that. I haven’t had an update on that one recently.

So there’s that on the horizon. And the cool thing about this mission is it’s really starting to showcase what a powerhouse India is turning into when it comes to space exploration. So there’s that. Now the other thing that might be happening on the same time scale – so we’re getting ready to totally coat the moon in robots. That’s really the only way to describe it, so Chandra Ontu plans.

And then the other thing is there are a number of teams planning to try and get their little robotic critters to the moon in competition for the Google Lunar X Prize. And what I love is some of these teams are actually sharing births on different rockets. So they’re going to land pretty much side by side on the moon and then take off like a bat out of hell to try and win the X prize and competition with one another.

And the Google Lunar X Prize, for those of you that don’t know, is a multi-million dollar competition to land something successfully on the moon, traverse 500 meters however you feel like this. So you could burrow and do a worm-like journey. You could rove, roll, hop, flit. You could fire yourself up, come down somewhere else. And in my head I have this fantasy of the little Sony dancing robot basically doing the moonwalk or something. How awesome would it be to have a robot moonwalk itself 500 meters across the moon?

Fraser Cain: I’m just imagining some crazy race out of the 1960s with different rovers racing across and also doing all kinds of dirty tricks and putting down oil slicks to try and stop each other.

Dr. Pamela Gay: Yeah, yeah, one of those Route 66 movie type races.

Fraser Cain: Yeah, yeah, Cannonball Run across the moon.

Dr. Pamela Gay: Exactly.

Fraser Cain: Yeah, but hopefully within the next couple of years a private group will have delivered a rover to the surface of the moon and it will have roved a significant distance across the surface of the moon, which is awesome, unprecedented.

Dr. Pamela Gay: And this competition, while the initial goal is that 500 meters, there are all sorts of bonus rounds, I guess if you’re a video gamer, is a good way to put it, with challenges to do a variety of other things. I mean, if you’d like to learn more about this we do have a Hangout series that I host for the Google Lunar X Prize where once a month we sit down and talk with the men, women and often students behind these different teams all over the world. So check that out Google Lunar X Prize.

On YouTube they have two channels. One has the Hangouts the other one has everything else. We’re trying to get them merged but as everyone out there who’s ever worked with Google Hangouts knows, it’s really easy to accidentally end up with like 40 channels.

Fraser Cain: Right. And of course if we’re doing disclaimers, I of course work for Hero X which is an offshoot of the X Prize. And so we’re looking to let anybody do an X Prize. So – but we still would’ve talked to both the Lunar X Prize even if we weren’t in some way affiliated with them.

So let’s move on. So the other one I think is important to talk about is the ExoMars rover, right. This is the one that’s gonna come out of Europe.

[Crosstalk]

Dr. Pamela Gay: And Mars 2020. You really have to discuss –

[Crosstalk]

Fraser Cain: And Mars 2020, yeah.

Dr. Pamela Gay: So there’s interesting politics here. I don’t know the full story because it’s often hard to get the full story. But there were plans to do major exploration of Mars. The Europeans were like, “Hey, NASA, wanna come along?” And NASA was like, “No, no, no, no, we’re not going to Mars, not going to Mars.”

And then Curiosity was so expletive successful like –

Fraser Cain: — darned awesome?

Dr. Pamela Gay: Yeah, exactly – that all of a sudden out of nowhere there were announcements for Mars 2020 rover. And everyone who’d been like, “Well, we need to stop going to Mars and redistribute our efforts to the outer solar system” was like no, no, no, go back to Mars, go back to Mars. And so there was a lot of the Europeans going, “But wait, we asked you to be part of our ExoMars thing and now you’re telling us you’re doing your own mission?”

So, yeah, NASA has a habit of doing that to ESA just because congress – it’s not NASA’s fault. It’s congress laying with what priorities are. So –

Fraser Cain: Yeah, you can have the money, you can’t have the money. We need to go to the moon, we need to go to Mars.

Dr. Pamela Gay: Right. So when you have people who get elected every six years, four years, whatever the particular person’s lifecycle is dictating priorities and NASA has to follow those priorities, it’s often difficult to work and play well with others.

So the history behind ExoMars and Mars 2020 is one of, well, it would’ve been nice if we had one awesome multinational plan. Instead we’re going to have two hopefully awesome rovers. But, yeah, everything’s still in the planning.

Fraser Cain: But some of the – part of the process, I mean, we’re really starting to move towards, I guess, setting the groundwork for the human exploration of Mars. And so a lot of what these rovers are gonna be doing is answering those next big questions. Is – with Curiosity it’s up to, were the conditions on Mars good for life in the past? And now sort of the goal is to kind of push that science a lot further now. I mean, it’s gonna be a copy of Curiosity, right, an upgraded version of Curiosity is sort of the last concept that [inaudible] [00:31:31] –

[Crosstalk]

Dr. Pamela Gay: I’m not sure they’d want you to call it that but what’s cool is they have what’s called the pasture instrument suite which includes an organic molecular analyzer. So they’re trying to figure out what is the specific chemistry we’re seeing. There are more spectrometers designed for looking at chemical signatures in completely different kinds of ways.

It’s also carrying a ground-penetrating radar which allows you to start looking at the density differences which could mean ice differences or lack of ice differences beneath the surface. So there’s a whole lot of awesome instrumentation on ExoMars as planned.

I don’t know a lot about their site selection but what’s cool is we’re starting to look for places that aren’t just another crater. So they do have a short list of a couple of different valleys, a plain, [inaudible] which I have to admit I don’t know a lot about but it is some sort of what looks like a river basin area. So we’re looking at completely different kinds of landing sites for it.

Now with Mars 2020 they’re going even a step further and they’re looking for as degraded a landing site as they can find. And we’re actually using Cosmo Quest as one of the different places that is reviewing all of the images, trying to find an area that is crater-free. So we’re asking you to map the craters so that we know where not to land.

So if you go participate in Mars mappers at Cosmo Quest.org you’re helping us find some really nice degraded sand duney area where hopefully we’ll be able to have the wind reveal just the right ancient organism signature. It’s not gonna reveal the organism. That will have been long dead but the chemistry of the organism in that sand.

Fraser Cain: Well, I think we’re starting to run out of time so I just wanna quickly run through some of the other concepts just that have been proposed and we can wrap this up. So ideas of sending sailboats to Titan, right. Ideas of jumping robots to Mars and to the moon. So instead of them necessarily rolling around the surface they actually have ways of jumping, hopping, hop bots.

There’s ideas of aircraft of either propeller-driven or even jet aircraft that would fly around in the airs above Mars. Helicopter ideas for this.

Dr. Pamela Gay: Zepplins.

Fraser Cain: [Inaudible] [00:34:22] on both Mars and Venus which is actually an ideal place to send balloons.

Dr. Pamela Gay: And occasionally Saturn. You do hear Saturn talked about as well. Jupiter’s a little bit radioactive.

Fraser Cain: — and too hydrogeny.

Dr. Pamela Gay: Yeah.

Fraser Cain: The other idea was – and then some ideas through concepts on rovers to be sent to Venus so you could actually build – and be very difficult to try and keep that heat out and rovers would be on borrowed time. You’d need – it would all be about cooling. But in theory you could have something rove around on the surface of Venus for a little while anyway, which would be great.

So – and now when you hear about things like what about Europa, what about [inaudible], what about Pluto? We need rovers on all the places all the time. Get at it NASA. Awesome. Well, thanks, Pamela.

Dr. Pamela Gay: Thank you.

Fraser Cain: We’ll talk to you next week.

Dr. Pamela Gay: Sounds good.

Announcer: Thanks for listening to Astronomy Cast, a nonprofit resource provided by Astrosphere New Media Association, Fraser Cain and Dr. Pamela Gay. You can find show notes and transcripts for every episode at AstronomyCast.com. You can email us at info@astronomycast.com, Tweet us at AstronomyCast, like us on Facebook or circle us on Google Plus.

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