Monday, December 29, 2014

Venus Goes Steampunk

So, apparently NASA's think tank has come up with a way to colonize Venus. Called HAVOC, the initial plan is for two astronauts to visit the cloud-covered, lethal planet, but the design could scale up to a small outpost...and from there, who knows.

The best part - it uses airships. Yup. Airships. HAVOC stands for High Altitude Venus Operational Concept.

The surface of Venus has eaten the few probes we've got to it in a matter of hours. Earth's "sister" planet might better be called her evil twin. The atmosphere is not only toxic, it's corrosive, full of sulfuric acid and other nasties.

At thirty miles up, though, we find conditions more earth-like than anywhere else in the solar system. The pressure, gravity and radiation protection are all similar to the surface of the Earth.

Hence, airships. A lighter-than-air vessel is the best way to hold scientific equipment...and brave astronauts...in that thirty mile zone. The challenges include inflating the airship on arrival and protecting it from the atmosphere - not nearly as bad there as closer to the surface, but still dangerous.

But, intriguingly, this may be more immediately feasible than a manned mission to Mars. The much shorter distance reduces the challenges of spaceflight and the environment is more hospitable in the ways that really matter...

And the idea of an airship city on Venus is just too cool to pass up.