NASA wants to Send Humans to Venus for the first time ever

NASA wants to Send Humans to Venus for the first time ever

NASA plans to send an airship into the upper atmosphere of our planetary neighbor.

The desire to explore our surroundings has urged the scientists to some incredible astronomical feats. The current surge of space missions has taken humanity into the interstellar space with missions like Voyager and the Hubble Space Telescope. Similarly, a lot of research is being done on our Solar System as astronomers study different celestial objects including planets and their moons. Historically, Venus was considered a potential tourist spot for humans, but later research revealed that it is anything but a dream destination.

Several missions in the last few decades showed that our neighboring planet is a hellish world with a toxic atmosphere, intense pressure at its surface, and incredibly-high temperatures. Despite all that, NASA is keen to send a manned mission to Venus and they are currently working on a project called the High Altitude Venus Operational Concept (HAVOC). Given the atmospheric and climatic characteristics of the planet, it is hard to believe that such a mission will ever be possible as the surface temperature of Venus is around 460o C. It surpasses the melting point of many metals including Lead and Bismuth which may even fall onto the higher mountain peaks as snow.

In addition to that, Venus has undergone catastrophic resurfacing events which involved severe build-up of heat under the surface of the planet. It led to the melting of the surface which re-solidified itself after cooling down. As a result, landing on Venus is not a really good idea. For this reason, the new mission of NASA focuses on using the dense atmosphere of the planet as a base. It is a long-term mission which will rely on the success of several small test missions. The key idea is to develop airships that could stay afloat in the upper atmosphere of the planet for extended periods of time.

You might find it hard to believe but the upper atmosphere of Venus is the most Earth-like place in our solar system. According to an estimate of the researchers, the pressure and temperature between altitudes of 50 and 60 kilometers are quite comparable to the lower atmosphere of Earth. It is so suitable that you won’t need any insulation or pressure suit at 55 kilometers in the Venusian atmosphere. Even above that level, the atmosphere is dense enough to protect the traveling astronauts from ionizing radiations from space.

The Venusian atmosphere is made up of 97% Carbon. Nitrogen is the major contributor to the remaining 3% while some trace gases are also there. In addition to that, it contains dense clouds of Sulfuric Acid, which is the primary reason why we can view Venus from Earth. The highly reflective layer of the planet lies at an altitude of 45-65 kilometers. Underneath this layer, there is a haze of sulfuric acid droplets which are about 30-kilometers-high in the Venusian atmosphere. Given the acidic atmosphere of the planet, any spaceship that intends to visit Venus must be resistant to the corrosive effect of the acid.

The airship that is expected to float around the planet will be filled with a breathable gas mixture, which will also provide the necessary buoyancy. This is made possible by the fact that the breathable mixture is lighter than the Venusian atmosphere. As far as the resistance of the outer envelope is concerned, scientists have a variety of commercially available plastics like Teflon that can be used for this purpose.

A series of Venera Missions visited the planet in the 1970s and captured the first images of the Venusian surface. These are the only images of Venus we have till date and they clearly show the inhospitality that the planet has to offer to all kinds of life. Contrary to that, the upper atmosphere of Venus is a completely different story. Species like Acidianus Infernus, which are found in the highly acidic lakes of Italy and Iceland, can withstand the acidic atmosphere at the altitude at which HAVOC will fly. Despite all that, there is no certainty that the life could exist in the atmosphere of Venus but there is enough possibility to investigate it by a mission like HAVOC as we don’t know much about our neighbor planet.  

Computer Scientist by qualification who loves to read, write, eat, and travel

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