2. A term for craft designed to explore solar-system bodies such as Venus, Mars, and Titan.
- One type is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), which is launched from an orbiting spacecraft and deploys wings before it lands.
- The second is a lighter-than-air craft, a helium-filled balloon fitted with heaters powered by solar cells.
- A third is a hybrid balloon-kite system sometimes called a helikite.
Unlike satellites or the winged aerobot, the lighter-than-air versions can fly for extended times, allowing long-term monitoring of the properties of the atmosphere.
Such aerobots can fly in the atmosphere; therefore, allowing experiments to be carried out on its chemistry. NASA scientists can also view and record the ground from much lower altitudes than is possible with satellites.
During the day, solar energy will heat the helium and give it extra buoyancy; at night, the balloon will drop to lower altitudes or even touch the ground.
The word combines the prefix aero-, "air" as in "aeronautics" (or "aerial") + bot, a common abbreviated form of "robot".