Why weather the bone-chilling rocky surface of Mars when you could call the clouds of Venus’s earth-like upper atmosphere home?
That’s the question posed by a NASA project that envisions a future where humans might live in solar-powered airships 31 miles above Earth’s nearest neighbor.
Dubbed the High Altitude Venus Operational Concept (HAVOC) the project would first send a robotic scout to gauge the lay of the land (or clouds) followed by a 30-day manned mission in a zeppelin-style helium ship.
One day, a ‘city’ comprised of multiple space zeppelins would hover above Venus at a sweet spot where temperatures are around 167 degrees.
That may sound hot, but at only 17 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than Earth’s highest recorded temperature it’s downright cozy compared to the -81F chills on the surface of Mars.
That’s at 30 miles above Venus only, of course. Thanks to a greenhouse gas heavy atmosphere, Venus is the hottest planet in the solar system with surface temperatures reaching 863F.
Dale Arney, who has helped dream up the idea with Chris Jones at NASA’s Systems Analysis and Concepts Directorate at Langley Research Center in Virginia, told IEEE:
‘The vast majority of people, when they hear the idea of going to Venus and exploring, think of the surface, where it’s hot enough to melt lead and the pressure is the same as if you were almost a mile underneath the ocean. Scientists at NASA say that in some ways a ‘landing’ in the atmosphere of Venus would be easier than a surface landing on Mars.
‘I think that not many people have gone and looked at the relatively much more hospitable atmosphere and how you might tackle operating there for a while.’
Once implemented, HAVOC would begin with an unmanned mission to Venus in which a 100-foot-long robotic solar-powered helium airship would test the waters, so to speak, in the planet’s atmosphere.
A gondola beneath would contain instruments with which to take measurements of temperature and other factors in preparation for a manned mission.
If given the go-ahead, that manned mission would take two brave souls on a 110-day trip to Venus.
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