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Big Picture: OSU students work on the Venus exploration project

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Weather Balloon Launch 2

Researchers launch weather balloon to detect earthquakes.

Making plastic balloons, Oklahoma State students work with NASA to help better understand Venus’s surface.

Surrounded by swirling toxic gas, Venus is the second planet from the sun and the hottest planet in the solar system. Even though the planet is different from Earth, Venus is the closest in size to Earth and is one of the terrestrial planets, meaning its surface is hard and made with material like rocks. 

In a statement sent by the university, Jamey Jacob, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and director of the Unmanned Systems Research Institute, and Danny Bowman, a geophysicist for the Sandia National Laboratories, worked with OSU students to test smaller balloons. After this, the group tested larger balloons.

These solar-powered plastic balloons are tied to a seismometer and used to detect earthquakes through low-frequency sound. Elbing said in the statement, the noise can help paint a clearer picture of Venus’s structure. He said the campaign of flying the balloons will be long, but if earthquakes can be detected here, then they can be on Venus. 

Earlier in the summer, OSU and NASA researchers successfully launched balloons with the hope of the balloons successfully identifying earthquakes. 

Since 1962, space agencies have explored Venus but the planets still hold mysteries. At first, scientists believed the planet had green vegetation underneath the thick clouds of carbon dioxide. However, after a discovery in the 1980s and early 1990s images showed the planet to be a hot, desolate place with volcanoes.

In June, three missions were announced to Venus. NASA planned two trips to the planet and the European Space Agency announced one journey.

While the balloons are not anticipated to be ready by the time of the NASA launches, they can help answer unsolved questions of the planet’s surface.