Systematic Exploration of Planetary Environments

Robert Duncan-Enzmann

Avco Research and Development

Published in the Fourth Western National Meeting Program, 1964, Transactions, AGU 1964

Terrestrial and gas giant type planets are divided into zones as follows: atmosphere (magnetosphere, ionospheres, atmosphere proper), hydrosphere (all substances in the liquid state), lithosphere (the rocky crust), endosphere (the interior below the Mohorovicic layer), and biosphere (prebiotic, viable, and post-biotic features). The zones are divided into orders on the basis of their dynamic morphology. The orders in the lithosphere are first-order circumplanetary of hemispheric features, second-order features of continental or oceanic extent, third-order features of geomorphic provinces generally the extent of mountain ranges, fourth-order features of the extent of single mountains, fifth-order mass waste regime, sixth-order sedimentary regime, seventh-order molecular regime, eighth-order elemental regime, and ninth-order corpuscular regime. This is an extension of geomorphic methods as used over a continent.

Nine morphological orders are proposed for features of the atmosphere, hydrosphere, endosphere, and biosphere (when it is present). Contour diagrams of instrument effectiveness as a function of the position from which the instruments are deployed, and as a function of the objects within the order or orders being measured, are given. The total possible information content in the very high and very low orders is shown to be relatively low, compared with the possible information content of the middle orders. The information content of zones is shown to reach a maximum in certain parts of the litho-biosphere, and minima in the upper atmosphere and endosphere or interior of planets.

Consideration of possible loci of high information content and instrument effectiveness suggests methods for maximizing both unmanned and possible manned planetary expeditions.