NASA wants to send people to Venus. Why it’s a great idea

Popular science fiction of the early 20th century, portrayed Venus as a kind of wonderful world with pleasant temperatures, forests, swamps and even dinosaurs. In 1950, the Hayden planetarium at the American Museum of natural history, reserving space for the first space tourists, long before the modern era Blue Origins, Virging Galactic and SpaceX. All you need to do is enter your address and put a tick in the right place, among whom were Venus.

Today Venus is unlikely to be a dream for aspiring space tourists. As shown by numerous missions over the past few decades, this planet not Paradise, but a hellish world of high temperatures, toxic atmosphere and enormous surface pressure. Despite this, NASA is currently working on a conceptual manned mission to Venus — High Altitude Venus Operational Concept (HAVOC).

Mission to Venus: how is this even possible?

How can such a General mission? The temperature on the surface of the planet (about 460 degrees Celsius) higher than on mercury, even though Venus is twice as far from the Sun. At this temperature, melts most metals, including bismuth and lead, which can then fall as snow on high mountain peaks. The surface of the planet is a barren rocky landscape with extensive plains of basalt, strewn with volcanic craters, and several mountainous districts of continental proportions.

The planet is also geologically young and experiencing a catastrophic event of alteration of the surface. Extreme events caused by the accumulation of heat below the surface, causing the surface of the melt, generates heat and hardens again. A scary prospect for any visitors.

Swimming in the atmosphere

Because of all this, the idea of the new mission of NASA is not to drop people off on the inhospitable surface, and use a dense atmosphere as the ground for research. The official dates of the mission of HAVOC until it was announced publicly. The mission will be long-term and will surely include a few test missions, which will have to prove the success of the event. Currently, this mission is really possible using modern technology. The plan is to use the airships that can stay in the upper atmosphere for long periods of time.

Oddly enough, the upper layers of the atmosphere of Venus is most similar to the Earth, among all the places in the Solar system. Altitude of between 50 and 60 kilometers, pressure and temperature can be compared with the lower regions of Earth’s atmosphere. Atmospheric pressure the atmosphere of Venus at an altitude of 55 kilometers, about two times lower than the pressure at sea level on Earth. In fact, you will feel great even without compressing the suit is the same pressure can be found on the peak of mount Kilimanjaro. Even warm up is not necessary — the temperature is in the range of 20-30 degrees.

The atmosphere above also dense enough to protect astronauts from ionizing radiation from space. The closeness of the sun also provides a greater number of available radiation than on Earth, that can be used to generate energy (about 1.4 times more).

The conceptual airship will float around the planet, carried about by the winds. It could fill a breathable gas mixture of oxygen and nitrogen and thus provide buoyancy. It’s real, because breathable air is less dense than the atmosphere of Venus and it will rise.

The atmosphere of Venus is 97% carbon dioxide, 3% nitrogen and trace quantities of other gases. It is sulfuric acid, which forms dense clouds and is the main factor responsible for the visibility of planet Earth. Venus reflects about 75% of the light falling on it from the Sun. This reflective layer is between 45 and 65 km of altitude, and haze droplets of sulfuric acid income to 30 kilometers down. Thus, the design of the airship must be resistant to the corrosive effect of this acid.

Fortunately, we already have the technology needed to overcome the problems with acidity. Some commercially available materials, including Teflon and some plastics have high acid resistance and can be used for the outer shell of the airship. Considering all these factors, perhaps you could walk around the platform outside of the airship, wearing a chemical protective suit and oxygen tank.

Life on Venus?

Map the surface of Venus made from orbit radar mission, Magellan. However, only a few places on the surface, we were able to visit because of the Soviet probe “Venera” of the late 1970s. These probes gave us the first and only images of the surface of Venus. Of course, the conditions on the surface seemed completely inhospitable to life.

However, the upper atmosphere is a different story. On the Earth there are several types of extremophilic organisms that are capable of withstanding conditions in the atmosphere at the altitude at which to fly the HAVOC. Species such as Acidianus infernus, can be found in highly acidic volcanic lakes in Iceland and Italy. It was discovered that in the earth the clouds are also transferred germs. None of this proves that in the atmosphere of Venus there is life, but this possibility can explore the mission on the type of HAVOC.

Current climatic conditions and atmospheric composition are the result of the increasing greenhouse effect (extreme greenhouse effect that cannot be reversed), which turned the planet of the hospitable “sisters of the Earth” in it the monster that it is now. Although we do not expect that the Earth will pass through a similar extreme scenario, it demonstrates that dramatic changes in climate can occur in response to certain physical conditions.

Our current testing climate models using extrema, which we see on Venus, we can better determine how the various effects of climate impacts can lead to drastic changes. Venus gives us the opportunity to test our modeling of the climate with all its consequences for the ecological health of our planet.

We still know relatively little about Venus, despite the fact that it is our closest planetary neighbor. Ultimately, the study of the similarities between the two planets will help us understand the evolution of the Solar system and eventually other star systems.

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