Hello, friends! Welcome to Our Place in Space: A to Z! For this year’s A to Z Challenge, I’ll be taking you on a partly imaginative and highly optimistic tour of humanity’s future in outer space. If you don’t know what the A to Z Challenge is, click here to learn more. In today’s post, H is for…
Venus is my favorite planet. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you probably already know this about me. The Venusian atmosphere is weird and chemically complex. The surface is mysteriously smooth, hinting at some pretty extreme geological activity. And did you know Venus is spinning the wrong way? She rotates clockwise where every other planet in our Solar System has counterclockwise rotation. In many ways, I feel like Venus is the planet with the most personality (aside from Earth, of course). So if there’s a realistic possibility of humans colonizing Venus one day, nothing would please me more!
HAVOC stands for High Altitude Venus Operational Concept. It’s NASA’s very preliminary plan for exploring Venus, first with robots, then with astronauts, with the eventual goal of establishing a permanent human presence. Most people scoff at the idea of sending humans to Venus. Surface conditions are hellish. The surface temperature is 475 degrees Celsius (900 degrees Fahrenheit). Atmospheric pressure is 90 times greater than what we experience here on Earth. Sulfuric acid falls from the sky as rain, and don’t forget about that extreme geological activity I mentioned. Nobody’s sure what’s happening, but the ground is too smooth, as if it gets regularly “repaved” with fresh lava.
But HAVOC would not involve putting boots on the ground. Instead, astronauts would explore Venus from the safety of blimps and other airborne habitats. At an altitude of 55 kilometers above the surface, Venus is quite nice. You might even call it heavenly. The temperature and pressure are roughly Earth-normal. We’d experience Earth-like gravity, too, and Venus would provide almost Earth-like protection from solar and cosmic radiation (a service that the Moon and Mars do not offer). Also, 55 kilometers up, we wouldn’t have to worry about the sulfuric acid rain; we’d be above the layer of sulfuric acid clouds!
Obviously this is not happening any time soon. The people at NASA seem to have their hearts set on returning to the Moon in the near future, with a long term goal of getting to Mars. Still, the idea of exploring Venus with blimps makes sense. In some ways, Venus might end up being a better second home for humans than Mars—just so long as we stay at that 55 kilometer altitude.
So in the distant future, when humanity is spreading out across the Solar System, don’t be surprised if large numbers of people live in Cloud City-like habitats on Venus.
Want to Learn More?
Check out this paper from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, detailing HAVOC as a five phase plan to explore and colonize Venus.
Also, here’s a video from NASA showing what a HAVOC mission might look like, from first arrival in Venusian orbit to safe return back on Earth.