The surface of Venus is hostile as all get out. Puny humans are having trouble even landing probes, and there is zero probability we would ever try to live there.
But NASA didn’t get where it is today by not thinking big. Even before the blockbuster discovery of phosphine in the clouds , some of the big brains at NASA Langley have been exploring concepts for visiting and exploring the atmosphere of Venus, High Altitude Venus Operational Concept (HAVOC)
Let’s start with the big, juicy part: airships! Giant, extraterrestrial airships!
The airships could be crewed!
The mission concept involves dropping Lighter Than Whatever-is-in-the-Air craft from orbit, to cruise high in the atmosphere where the pressure and temperature isn’t as extreme. Probes could dive deeper and then bob back up with data.
At this altitude in the Venusian atmosphere there is substantial solar radiation for power, yet radiation levels are pretty low. Practically a day at the beach, compared to Mars!
OK, this mission isn’t trivial to do.
“Key technical challenges for the mission include performing the aerocapture maneuvers at Venus and Earth, inserting and inflating the airship at Venus, and protecting the solar panels and structure from the sulfuric acid in the atmosphere.” (From )
Yeah, operating an airship in a bath of sulfuric acid is kind of a challenge.
And getting there involves a screaming descent from orbit, slowing to a reasonable speed, deploying and inflating the envelope—amid 100 km/hr winds. What could possibly go wrong?
A human crew could be accommodated in a submarine-like aerial rover or, as Evan Akerman puts it, “sky cities”.
Now you are just teasing me!
Who hasn’t been waiting forever for Sky Cities on Venus?
Hey Silicon Valley space nuts! This is way, way cooler than a suicide mission to “settle” Mars.
- Evan Ackerman, NASA Study Proposes Airships, Cloud Cities for Venus Exploration, in IEEE Spectrum – Aerospace, September 13, 2020. https://spectrum.ieee.org/aerospace/space-flight/nasa-study-proposes-airships-cloud-cities-for-venus-exploration
- Jonathan Amos, Is there life floating in the clouds of Venus?, in BBC News – Science & Environment, September 14, 2020. https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-54133538
- Jane S. Greaves, Anita M. S. Richards, William Bains, Paul B. Rimmer, Hideo Sagawa, David L. Clements, Sara Seager, Janusz J. Petkowski, Clara Sousa-Silva, Sukrit Ranjan, Emily Drabek-Maunder, Helen J. Fraser, Annabel Cartwright, Ingo Mueller-Wodarg, Zhuchang Zhan, Per Friberg, Iain Coulson, E’lisa Lee, and Jim Hoge, Phosphine gas in the cloud decks of Venus. Nature Astronomy, 2020/09/14 2020. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41550-020-1174-4
- NASA Systems Analysis and Concepts Directorat. High Altitude Venus Operational Concept (HAVOC). 2020, https://sacd.larc.nasa.gov/smab/havoc/.