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Future Missions

In addition to Mars applications, the tumbleweed rover was also evaluated for possible use in the microbar atmospheres of Pluto, Neptune's moon, Triton, and Jupiter's moon, Io (Jones, 2001). Pluto's 10 to 20 microbar nitrogen atmosphere is anticipated to have very calm winds, thus not conducive to windballs. Triton's 17-microbar nitrogen atmosphere, however, is anticipated to have at least 5-15 m/sec winds with locally higher winds possible. Preliminary calculations showed that winds of about 20 m/sec may induce motion of Tumbleweed rovers at Triton, and thus, this application remains a possibility. In addition, a Tumbleweed rover might be used as a means of landing payloads on either Pluto or Triton, with anticipated impact speeds of as low as about 60 m/sec. Io's one-microbar atmosphere is likely to have supersonic winds during frequent volcanic activity, and the resulting wind forces would be more than ample to propel windballs across large areas of volcanic surface.


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