Mission #4: Venus Visit

Image credit - Star Wars movie franchise

Image credit – Star Wars movie franchise

The Enterprise will visit Venus and go into its orbit. The surface of Venus is perhaps too hot for human visitors with near term technologies, so the Universal Lander will likely not be designed to withstand the 1000 degree F surface temperature. However, at about 30 miles above the surface the air around Venus is close to temperatures back on earth’s surface. The Universal Lander will drop down into Venus’s atmosphere and fly near its surface and have a look around before returning to the Enterprise.

venus surface v4

The Enterprise will not send down any equipment to start a base on Venus during this mission. It will however put in place an air-filled micro-city that is perhaps ten feet by ten feet by ten feet, and this will float in the sky in the cooler air above Venus’s hot surface. This micro-city will be a test bed to explore the ideas of NASA scientist Geoffrey Landis. The inside of the enclosed micro-city will be held at earth temperatures, earth air pressure, and the air will be a mix like on earth which includes oxygen. Since the Venus atmosphere is so thick, simply filling the micro-city with air at earth’s normal air pressure will cause the micro-city to float. It’s like a floating city right out of Star Wars. No people will be left behind in the micro-city. But to test living conditions, mice will be left behind to inhabit this micro-city. Perhaps the address is then, well, Mouse City, Venus. Back on earth scientists can monitor the conditions of the mice for several years. Many sensors will exist inside and outside of Mouse City. How the Venus wind affects the city, the level of sulfuric acid in the clouds, the outside temperature variations over time, the amount of radiation that the mice receive and so on can be monitored to learn if one day we might return to create a full size floating city for humans above Venus like shown at the top of this page.

Another idea might be considered during this first Venus mission if the wind is not too high and the sulfuric acid concentration in the clouds is found to be low. The Universal Lander can stop and hover above the surface of Venus about 30 miles up by using its vertical thrusters. A large balloon can be launched from the Universal Lander and then inflated with air to give it buoyancy. The Universal Lander’s engines can then be shut off and the ship will just float in the sky hanging by ropes from the balloon. The air pressure at this altitude is about the same as on earth’s surface. The temperature at this altitude is around 75 degrees F. Gravity is about like on earth. The air is nearly all carbon dioxide which is breathable by humans. (However, the sulfuric acid and potentially other toxic trace gasses will prevent anyone from wanting to attempt to take a breath of this air.) Under these conditions it’s likely possible to open the doors of the Universal Lander and for the astronauts to park themselves on the hood of it while wearing only street clothes from earth and a breathing mask. They could also take off the masks and just hold their breath for awhile. For the first time in history humans would be sitting in the atmosphere of another planet unprotected by spacesuits while watching the sun set on the Venus horizon. I know I wish I could be there. It would be one awesome tailgate party.

(Note: Before the above could be attempted, the concentration of sulfuric acid in the atmosphere at these high altitudes must be determined. If it’s found that there is no place in the Venus sky with concentrations low enough for human skin to tolerate for short term exposure, then a thin covering material may be needed over any exposed skin. Or perhaps a special-designed lotion of some sort would do the trick.)

And like on the first Mars mission, a very large number of robotic probes will be sent down to Venus. These robotic probes developed by NASA will include rovers, Venus planes, and satellites. Again the idea is to flood the planet with probes on a scale never done before.