Robotic balloons, also known as aerobots, have become candidates for collecting atmospheric data and detailed surface observations of Venus, Mars, and Titan. A mission to Venus over a decade ago used two of them. Their inclusion last year in attempts by a balloonist to circumnavigate the Earth aptly demonstrated their utility for remote sensing and in situ observations of planetary atmospheres.
To simulate aspects of an aerobot mission, a small payload to measure local atmospheric conditions and balloon position and velocity was included on Solo Spirit “Round the World” flights during January and August of last year. These missions, flown in Roziere balloons, were attempts by Steve Fossett to become the first person to circumnavigate the globe in a balloon without stopping. Neither attempt was successful, but the aerobot came through with flying colors.