Paper Submissions 1998-1999: Mars Mission and Surface Operations
Texas Christian University: Balloon - Based Mars Observation Mission
Ryan L. Coles, Roberto Hernandez and Isaac G. Varner
Department of Engineering
Texas Christian University
Fort Worth, TX
NASA and the Texas Space Grant Consortium are currently studying various plans for robotic and human exploration of Mars. Our project explores the feasibility of using a balloon-based system to take aerial photographs of the surface of the planet Mars. In addition to providing valuable information for future manned missions to Mars, aerial photographs have the potential to present to U.S. citizens a vision of Mars as another world with mountains and canyons, as opposed to current ground level photographs of Mars which present Mars as a series of rock-strewn plains. In addition to visual images, the mission calls for taking measurements of several atmospheric parameters, such as pressure and temperature. In designing the balloon-based observation system, elements such as available solar energy on Mars, wind patterns, temperature variations and atmospheric density will be considered. As part of our project, we designed and constructed a prototype balloon system which we used to take aerial photographs of the TCU campus.