The Grand Canyon of Mars 

Being a bit of a sci-fi nerd this sort of thing appeals to me:

The idea of balloons flying low and slow over alien landscapes appeals to researchers like Wolfgang Fink, a physicist and visiting associate at the California Institute of Technology who co-authored a report last year in the journal Planetary and Space Science arguing for a mix of techniques for exploring other worlds. “We’re not trying to take anything away from the successful landings on Mars, Venus, and Titan, nor the orbital-based successes,” Fink says. “We’re looking at a new way to cover lots of distance.”

Planetary balloons can travel farther than rovers and get closer to the surface than orbiters, sniffing the atmosphere or taking pictures and temperature readings as they go. For JPL’s engineers, their value as research tools has always been obvious. The technology, not the rationale behind it, is what needs shoring up.

(via The Nonist

It also reminded me of this story from a couple of years ago, which is about developing rural broadband using high altitude balloons.  The research for which seems to be ongoing:

High Altitude Platforms, such as airships, offer the scope to deliver very high data rate wireless broadband links providing a real alternative to wired or satellite connections.

The lightweight, low-cost, high speed broadband wireless access radio link equipment was designed and developed by the University of York to operate in the mm-wave band (28/29GHz). This supported data rates of 11Mbit/s and throughputs up to 4Mbit/s, using WiFi (IEEE802.11b), at distances ranging up to 60km.

About Andrew Brown

I live in Lewisham, South East London, and spent 9 years as a Labour councillor in the borough between 1997 and 2006.
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