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Weekly Space Hangout

Nov 17, 2022

Despite the romance associated with Venus for millennia thanks to its having been named after the Roman god of love, Venus has proven to anything BUT romantic - LITERALLY! Combining the toxic and corrosive composition of its atmosphere with the crushing pressure exerted on anything that attempts to venture too far into it, Venus is the last place most of us would choose for a date. These conditions proved to be disastsrous for missions that sent traditional craft to the planet. To date, the only "craft" to have survived for more than a few hours are the 1985 Soviet Vega 1 and Vega 2 balloon missions where each survived just over 46 hours before their batteries ran out. It would seem that baloons are the way to go!

This week we are joined by Dr. Jacob Izraelevitz, Principal Investigator of the JPL project that is developing robotic balloons — currently called aerobots — that will eventually (hopefully) lead to successful exploration of Venus. In July, 2022, a one-third scale prototype aerobot successfully completed two test flights and achieved controlled flight at more than 4000 feet. These flights were coordinated by Near Space Corporation, a commercial provider of high altitude/near space platforms and flight services.

You can read all about this exciting project in the article written by WSH and Universe Today alumnus Ian O'Neill.

Dr. Jacob Izraelevitz is a Robotics Technologist and Group Lead at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in the Extreme Environment Robotics Group, and is the Principal Investigator of JPL's Variable-Altitude Venus Aerobots development task.

His career at JPL has primarily sat at the interface of controls and fluid mechanics, covering both powered and buoyant aerial platforms for Venus and Mars. Jacob also acts in a systems engineering role for instrument accommodation on the Europa Lander.

Jacob received his Ph.D. and M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the aerodynamics of flapping wings, and B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Olin College of Engineering.

To learn more about Jacob and stay up to date with his research, visit his JPL website or find him on LinkedIn.


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