(Photo credit: NASA Langley Research Center)
The fine folks at NASA are thinking it might be easier to go to Venus first, rather than Mars. After all, it’s nearer. But how, given the (to put it mildly) hostile conditions of the Venusian surface?
Simple: we build a colony above the clouds!
Called HAVOC – High Altitude Venus Operational Concept — engineers and scientists at the space agency have been studying ways in which a Venus mission would be possible.
“The atmosphere of Venus is an exciting destination for both further scientific study and future human exploration,” aerospace engineer Christopher A. Jones told CNN.
Venus is the closest planet to Earth, about 38 million kilometres, compared with 54.6 million km to Mars. However, it is also highly inhospitable with a mean temperature of 462 degrees Celsius, a cloud layer of sulphuric acid and atmospheric pressure that’s 92 times greater than Earth’s.
Scientists say, however, that just 50 kilometres above the cloud layer are conditions that mimic Earth – pressure is almost the same and so is the gravity and the temperature is about 75 C. With current technology, the astronauts could be outfitted in special suits to withstand the heat.
In previous years, probes have been sent to the surface of Venus, but could only last about two hours.
NASA has also provided a concept video (via):
There’s a fuller discussion at the IEEE Spectrum.
NASA projects the initial mission to last about 30 days, but, over time, the station itself could become permanent, with researchers coming and going. (And tourists? Why not?)
If you know me, you know I grew up watching and loving the space program. While I support private space efforts, I think a NASA-lead exploration program fits with our “Lewis and Clark” traditions. Add to that the possibility of a Star Wars-like “Cloud City” (1), and I’m all for it. Let’s start tomorrow!
We’ve walked on the Moon. No reason we can’t soar above Venus.