Sciency Words: H.A.V.O.C.

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Today’s post is part of a special series here on Planet Pailly called Sciency Words. Each week, we take a closer look at an interesting science or science-related term to help us expand our scientific vocabularies together. Today’s term is:


Given a choice between colonizing Venus or Mars, I might actually choose Venus. Yes, surface conditions on Venus are hellish instant death. Like, literally hellish. It’s even got the sulfur. But a Venusian colony would not be built on the planet’s surface.

Atmospheric conditions at an altitude of about 50 km are actually quite pleasant. The temperature and pressure are about the same as on Earth. So is the gravity. And you wouldn’t need hydrogen or helium to keep your floating cities aloft; on Venus, oxygen is lighter than air.

Life in a Venusian floating city, drifting around right above the Venusian clouds, sounds almost—dare I say it?—heavenly. There’d be plenty of sunlight (solar panels would soak up plenty of energy), and Venus would provide some natural protection from solar and cosmic radiation (at least, more protection than you’d get on Mars).

And thanks to the weird chemical mix in Venus’s atmosphere, you’d be able to collect almost all the natural resources you’d need. Well, aside from water (Mars has got Venus beat there).

I know this sounds crazy, but the more you read about it, the more Venus colonization makes sense. Venus may not get the kind of attention (or funding) that Mars gets, but NASA and other space agencies do take this seriously. NASA has even given the idea a name: the High Altitude Venus Operational Concept, or H.A.V.O.C.


So I’m ready to sign up for a mission to colonize Venus. Who’s with me?

5 thoughts on “Sciency Words: H.A.V.O.C.

  1. There are problems with HAVOC that do not exist on Mars. For example, any satellites would be receiving a lot more radiation, and would need to be more robust. And a network of satellites would be pretty useful for either navigation or observing the weather. Any balloon-like vessel we send to that altitude would be drifting along the winds, which can be hundreds of kilometers per hour at that altitude. Visibility could be an issue, if you wanted to navigate either by stars or by surface features. In any case, accurate navigation is easiest when you can triangulate from multiple sources.

    When calculating the return trip, you need to know exactly where you are starting from. For the return trip, you would probably first fly to a higher parking orbit (trying not to hit any satellites or other vehicles in the process), where you would then get a more accurate heading and calculate the needed acceleration towards Earth.

    Since Venus is closer to the Sun, the return trip to Earth could actually require more fuel than the trip down, since it would be against the gravity of the Sun. This makes ISRU even more important than for Mars.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A lot of useful information here. Of course, we have put space probes in orbit of Venus before, so I don’t think that would be too challenging. I do agree that wind and visibility would be an issue.


    1. Oh don’t get me wrong, I’d be happy to go to Mars too, and in terms of attention and funding, a Mars colony is way more realistic right now than a Venus colony. But if something like HAVOC became a reality, Venus could become a really nice place to live.


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