NASA Venus Mission has Flying Cities
Mars may seem like the logical next step for mankind in the solar system. NASA scientists Dale Arney and Chris Jones disagree. The two work at Langley Research Center, exploring the idea of sending the NASA Venus mission to the skies over the pale silver dot’s surface.
It’s true that the surface of Venus resembles an inferno. Temperatures exceed 500 C. For a human, the surface would be like getting crushed in a trash compactor filled with magma. It turns out, however, that a mere 50 km above the surface is kind of like visiting Canada.
Albeit, a very warm Canada. At that level, the temperatures are around 75 C – just 17 degrees above the highest recorded Earth temperature. Gravity is similar to Earth, about 1/3 higher. Most important, the exposure to radiation in Venus’s atmosphere is close to what humans in Canada are used to receiving.
Mars is Harder than the NASA Venus Mission
On Mars, astronauts would be exposed to 40 times as much radiation than on Earth each day. The atmosphere on Mars is thin. So thin, that even though Mars experiences 40 times the radiation its distance from the Sun makes solar power 240 times less efficient than Venus. Chris Jones said:
Venus has value as a destination in and of itself for exploration and colonization. But it’s also complementary to current Mars plans.…There are things that you would need to do for a Mars mission, but we see a little easier path through Venus.
A trip to Mars would experience greater logistics problems. Realistically, round trips would take 2 – 3 years. That’s a lot of time to be spending in space. Propulsion systems aside that would require upwards of 3 years healthy rations per person. The NASA Venus mission would take just 440 days. Venus’ distance to Earth provides greater flexibility than Mars. With how the planets align, a Venus mission would have the first 110 days to abort and begin a trip back to Earth.
Venus orbits the Sun much faster than the Earth. Conversely, Mars orbits much slower; nearly twice that of Earth. For Venus, a year is 225 Earth days. 110 Days is also the amount of time it would take to reach Venus. Astronauts would only spend 30 days floating above Venus. The return trip will take 300 days.
Float On, Venus
Going to Venus is like a test run for Mars. The final phase of the NASA Venus mission is the establishment of permanent colonies. Balloon cities would establish a permanent human presence on mankind’s second planet.
These installations will be twice the size of a Boeing 747, covered in solar panels. A robotic mission would go first. Taking with it a folded blimp that will become the future space station. Humans would meet up later, docking with the station in orbit.
Venus barely rotates, years pass before days. The Greenhouse Effect is rampant, and great winds blow at 100 m/s across its surface. Day/Night cycles are tracked according to 110-hour cycles – the time it takes the winds to circle the planet. The settlements mitigate the winds impact through a combination of drifting with and working against the storms; surfing Venus.
Scientists are optimistic for the future of the NASA Venus mission. Little of the technology is currently out of reach. If Space Launch Configurations change exploration of Venus could begin as soon as 2020.
What do you think about a manned mission to Venus? Comment Below.
Images from NASA Langley Research Center.