The planet of love may soon house cities of people to officially send sparks flying. Two NASA scientists, Dale Arney and Chris Jones, have recently suggested sending humans to Venus, according to a report in IEEE Spectrum. But instead of landing on the planet’s burning-hot surface, those rocked out would float amongst the clouds.
In order to send humans to Venus’, NASA would require making monumental policy changes, as the surface of Venus has the pressure of 92 of Earth’s atmospheres and can reach temperatures more than 900 degrees Fahrenheit (500 degrees C). And though NASA has been promoting crewed Mars missions as part of its Orion program, Arney and Jones argue that the atmosphere of Venus, explored by an airship, may be more hospitable to human missions – hence the High Altitude Venus Operational Concept, or HAVOC.
HAVOC is a conceptual spacecraft designed by a team at the Systems Analysis and Concepts Directorate at NASA Langley Research Center for the purposes of Venusian exploration. The helium-filled airship would be designed to sit above the planet’s acidic clouds for a period of around 30 days, allowing a team of astronauts to gather information about the atmosphere. The idea is to send a robotic version, followed by a larger, crewed version; the rocket would have to be folded up inside a spacecraft to reach its destination, with humans following in a separate launch. What’s more, Arney and Jones’ plan even includes a suggested space colony, settled amongst the clouds.
Well, while the surface of Venus would destroy a human, about 31 miles (50 km) above Venus’s surface, the gravity is only slightly lower than Earth’s, and the atmospheric pressure is just about the same. Venus is even better shielded from radiation than Mars: Exposure to radiation in Venus’ atmosphere would be “about the same as if you were in Canada,” Arney told IEEE Spectrum. In short, Venus does indeed contain a set of conditions similar to Earth, thereby raising awareness to its future inhabitability.
“Venus has value as a destination in and of itself for exploration and colonization, but it’s also complementary to current Mars plans,” said Chris Jones of the Langley Research Center. “If you did Venus first, you could get a leg up on advancing those technologies and those capabilities ahead of doing a human-scale Mars mission. It’s a chance to do a practice run, if you will, of going to Mars.”
NASA’s end goal would be a permanent human presence in a floating cloud city in Venus’ atmosphere. Before the plan reaches that point, however, scientists must first perform simulations of Venusian conditions on Earth, and foresee a 10-20 years before the mission’s plans are fully implemented.