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A young Venus had water for 2B years, habitable for longer than Mars (planetary.org)
104 points by uncertainquark on May 2, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 27 comments

Wanted: redshirt volunteers for an away team to the surface of Venus

Venus certainly seems scientifically neglected at the moment but hopefully this is going to change in the coming years [0]. If SpaceX manages to get somewhere with Starship though, we might see the most amazing things in space exploration in the future. While they are focused on Mars, I wouldn't rule out that with enough money, getting trips to Venus should be possible. Floating research stations dozens of kilometers above the surface of Venus? Researchers might even live inside a blimp as filled with air, it would float at an altitude of approximately 50km (the pressure is said to be about 1 bar up there). Ah, I'm getting carried away again ...

[0] https://www.forbes.com/sites/brucedorminey/2020/02/14/nasa-g...

Oh my gosh - I'd never considered living inside a Venutian blimp before. Of course! Why not?

I still have fantasies about Venus being somehow a more likely [very] long-term prospect for terraforming, despite the planet's rotational problems. Seems like a thick atmosphere filled with (admittedly lethal) useful gases and potentially-organic compounds offers a much better resource than Mars' practical lack of a one.

>I'd never considered living inside a Venutian blimp before. Of course! Why not?

Are you aware of wind velocities at an altitude high enough to get you 1 bar on Venus?

Think Goodyear blimp --

in hurricane Katrina.

OK, now that you've got a picture of that in mind --

double the wind speed.

Vega 2 Dropped a balloon probe over 40 years ago that lasted at least a few hours as it floated at its level and traversed 11,000Km. Why not hope that in another couple of hundred years we could make something that could last significantly longer, and could house a manned station? Before then, small steps?

Venus is a hellscape by comparison to Earth, but we are incredibly resourceful apes with imaginations unbound by meagre constraints.

Isn't the dv/dt really the issue? If Venus has stable high altitude wind, would the speed really matter?

Call me pessimistic but I'd expect some pretty wicked turbulence... what'll happen to that blimp when each side is taking on cat5 velocities in different directions? "Artificial gravity" is not the right answer ;)

That doesn't seem to be the case for the most part, although I'm sure something would need to consistently monitor weather conditions to avoid anything close to that.

This altitude is within the high-velocity "superrotation" region of the Venus atmosphere, where a constant wind moves at a velocity on the order of a hundred meters per second. This means that over the two days of the mission, the balloons traversed about 11,000 km, from the night hemisphere into the day hemisphere. About two days into the mission, the primary batteries were depleted, and contact was lost.


Edit - According to this the zonal winds are ~60mph at certain elevations.


Oh, and the air has enough sulfur dioxide to kill you, because otherwise it would be too easy.

Why not? Because of the myriad things that can go wrong and bring doom to the enterprise. In due time one of them will happen. Stable systems are governed by negative feedback loops, blimps are not one of them.

Neither are ships, but we have become pretty good at keeping them buoyant, primarily by properly compartmentalizing the internal space.

How is the weather up there? Bad weather on earth has grounded or crashed more than a few zeppelins and blimps. On Venus, going to the ground wouldn't be an option.

Well, they would die. Venturing on the edge of civilization or extending that edge is always fraught with dangers, and also surrounded by wonders nobody else will see for years or decades.

As long as those risk takers understand what risks they're accepting, I say all the power to them.

I'd even consider it.

Well I suppose my point is that it would probably be a good idea to advance balloon tech on earth first before attempting such a thing on Venus. Finding people willing to risk their lives is well and good, but if trillions of dollars worth of equipment and mission planning go to waste very quickly, I wager it'd be hard to find funding for such missions.

I used to read a lot of science fiction as a teenager, but as I got older, much of it and particularly the idea of colonization of other planets lost its appeal.

The issue is that I see extraterrestrial bases as being like research stations in Antarctica, except even less self-sufficient. Whenever you have a problem with something on Earth, you can always go down a level in technology, all the way back to the stone age if necessary. Your machine breaks down or gets stuck, you can get out of it and duct tape it, bash it with a rock, weld it. You have the whole industrial supply chain that goes back to digging things out of the dirt. It doesn't always work, but it's fundamentally different from anywhere off earth, where if your high tech solution fails, it's game over; either you're dead immediately, or you're dead eventually because a solution would take months or years to get from earth, or you're very, very lucky and you can get saved from earth at vast expense.

There are only two ways that make sense to me to actually create self-sufficient colonies - terraforming other celestial bodies, or modifying ourselves to suit them. But those aren't very near term, and the genre of science fiction that doesn't involve either isn't, I think going to ever become reality.

I've heard that at that height (where it's 1atm) the temperature is the same as on earth too. Anybody know if that's right? Quite a coincidence if it is.

>Wanted: redshirt volunteers for an away team to the surface of Venus

I'll do it as long as I get an unlimited R&R budget with total legal immunity for the last month before unidirectional egress

Could starship float with empty fuel tanks?

No, it has over 100t of dry mass. Its volume, evacuated, would generate lift compensating (this is an educated guess) maybe 5-10t.

I'll update the comment when I have better numbers.


Using volumes from one of the SpaceX-subreddits [0], I get a total volume of about 2500m³. An evacuated volume displacing 1m³ of carbon dioxide [1] at 1 bar and ambient temperature could lift a mass of 1.8kg. So the total volume of Starship could lift a mass of ~4.5t. It's got a dry mass of far over 100t though.

[0] https://www.reddit.com/r/SpaceXLounge/comments/fm735a/starsh...

[1] https://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=carbon+dioxide+density...

Thanks for doing the math. That’s a shame I thought I was on to something!

For those interested in Venus, I'd recommend trying to keep up with Don Mitchell's stream of stuff on Twitter.

This thread where he produces updated imagery from the Soviet Venus landing is great [1]. He's also seemingly made a bunch of progress on his upcoming book [2]. He used to post everything to his website at mentallandscape.com, and it's still up for useful history / structure, but all his work for the past decade seems to be solely on Twitter (until the book happens!).

[1] https://twitter.com/DonaldM38768041/status/12346581956682670...

[2] https://twitter.com/DonaldM38768041/status/12487923285143674...

Can anyone point to some state of the art reference on Venusian planetary science? I have some books from the 70s on the topic, but I assume more is known now.

A little dated David Grinspoons "Venus Revealed" (1998). David is a leading US expert plus science journalist. Plus Carl Sagan was a family friend. David is a frustrated Venus expert because no Venus probe has been approved in the past two decadenal space priorities.

Googled Venus Simulation. Found Terraforming Wiki.


I would start with looking at Wikipedia. Either the article on Venus or a separate article on the history of exploration of Venus should have links to sources.

My usual approach: find any recent academic book on the topic, read the introduction/preface and maybe first chapter, and it’ll name-drop all the most important books and papers on the subject.

Usually the Web, including Wikipedia, and outside of perhaps Library Genesis, is shockingly shallow and out-of-date. It’s usually not even capable of providing a basic list of major works like this, let alone the contents, unless you stumble on some academic’s page that happens to provide it, which is increasingly hard to do through search.

I wonder if Venus had a large moon if it might not be earth like.

A moon would be constantly stirring the magma which might have given it tectonics.

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