No, I'm seriously you guys.
We have just figured out that we can (re)make forests out of deserts, let's do that. Let's do the hell outta that!
"How to Grow a Forest Really Really Fast" https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9074473
Search on "Greening the Desert" E.g. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desert_greening
"Celebrating 10-Years at the Greening the Desert Project, Jordan" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yI9wMtTvWps
This is a regenerative process: the forest produces the seeds, fauna, and materials needed to create more forest.
We can totally do this, and many people are, the tricky bit is getting the economics to work.
We're already doing it, after all. But we don't think about it in those terms, and we aren't getting the kind of results which we might, if we did.
What you're proposing we can call silviforming, and it's a good idea. We spend too much energy making Earth more like Mars (dry and barren) or like Venus (a roiling greenhouse of carbon dioxide inimical to life); let's make Earth more like Earth instead.
And it's really an economic puzzle, the life-forms work automatically (4Byr old self-improving nanotech).
The Syntropic Farming guy grows the best cocoa beans on the planet at 3x the yield of comparable-quality conventional farms with no fertilizer nor irrigation, and he's getting other crops out of the same "food forest" too. The production is there, it's a matter of getting the word out and engineering the economics.
I think a combination of Small Plot Intensive (SPIN) farming with the soil-building "Grow Biointensive" system makes a good "wedge" for small holders to make money, which you can then parley into food forests. (A food forest takes a few years before it starts to really cook, the SPIN/GB market farm covers the gap.)
(BTW, to anyone reading this, if you're near San Francisco and want to get into this let me know. I'm gearing up to test this out.)
Is this a reference? I don't understand what this means.
Bruce Sterling tried, with some success, to promulgate a technologically-oriented and optimistic approach to the climate crisis, around the turn of the millennium.
That article, conveniently enough, contains a link to one on "bright green environmentalism", which bruces considered similar enough that he closed the chapter on the Viridians.
Which, I wish he hadn't. But I can't fault him for finding other things to do with his time.
Please don't do this.
Deserts are great at shedding heat into space (high albedo in the visible, high emissivity in the infrared, low humidity). Climate feedback loops are complicated.
Forests continuously sequester carbon as trees grow, live, die, and the microbes which feed off the dead trees ones grow, live and die. The cycle of carbon utilization is never totally efficient, and the carbon that is "lost" in the cycle blackens the soil.
Plus, you get biodiversity as a bonus.
Changing the albedo and local transpiration has an immediate effect (which can be positive or negative, depending on the existing albedo, downstream effects, etc). CO2 sequestration, on the other hand, takes time.
If you plant trees, let them grow for 30 years, then remove a high fraction of that carbon from the cycle (e.g. lumber), then the break-even point can be pretty short (decades, probably, but I don't have a good number). This will depend on a lot of climate feedback effects, like heat leaking out of your forest through moisture evaporation (which otherwise would have been shed back into space), what the existing carbon uptake rate was of the location you planted (did you replace scrubland, grassland, desert, ...?), etc.
If your permanent sequestration is primarily due to carbon cycle efficiency loss, maybe multiply that timescale by a factor of 10-50.
not only does the desert shed heat into space, it makes makes it possible to create ice due to this action. amazing.
If we could turn the major deserts into forests it would be like putting on a wool coat on a hot day?
Seems fundamentally similar, though maybe with some better understanding of the dynamics.
(Culturally, it's not coming from a colonist mindset. This is about regenerating land that never should have been desert in the first place. Jordan wasn't always desert, for example.)
Based solely on the scale of the problems yourself presented, you must surely agree that (mega)engineering is the most factible solution in terms of time. Greening the desert might be the best idea but the scale certainly sounds right.
The only actual solution is to engineer many solutions, supported by reducing the pumping CO2 at a minimum, hopefully zero.
Leaders of some of the largest and richest countries on earth denied there was a Covid problem and still deny - or fake to deny - the climate crisis.
There's going to be a transition to something else but our specie or civilization isn't ready to make it smooth and I have little hope we can handle global scale projects like terra-forming.
Most likely there won't be any significant terraforming initiative and small scale local solutions will be enforced when it's too late for anything else.
The only problem with Sahara is that no one will bother - there's also not much to govern except sand. If people wanted to spend billions to seed the place I don't think any of the government in Africa is going to say no, it's just that nobody is doing it.
Emissivity is the material property involved in radiation loss, and ice is highly emissive, but so is almost anything non-conductive. Also radiation loss depends on T^4, so that 15-20% difference ends up being closer to one being double the other.
Mao thought that sparrows ate people's grain, so ordered to kill them all. What Mao did not know is that those sparrows ate vermin such as crop-eating insects. Those insects ate all the crops triggering the Great Chinese Famine, and the ecological disaster that requires farmers to pollinate plants by hand.
It's been a while since I've done the the envelope math but if I recall correctly there is more than sufficient CO2 on Venus to provide an atmosphere for Mars the issue is just transportation.
The last time I thought about it I considered some sort of massive floating solar powered comet builder that would cool the atmosphere into large chunks of dry ice that could then be wrapped in a metal sabot so that the comet could be accelerated to mars via a mass driver.
As with everything in space and terraforming the key is scale so the equipment used would need to built in situ out of carbon from the Venusian atmosphere.
We are of course still a ways away from mastering self replicating carbon based engineering but the idea of terraforming both planets at the same time is neat to me.
But if you really want to have fun with terraforming you should make Venus earth-like. I suggest an exciting starting point: build a solar shade at the Lagrange point and block the sun. That would eliminate most of the hard problems with Venus temporarily while we did whatever work is needed to get it spruced up. CO2 freezes to dry ice below -80C or so. You could let through just enough sunlight to get the atmosphere at a pressure humans can survive- then all we need is warm clothes and an oxygen tank.
Once Venus is in that state, the problem is simpler- how to get all the carbon and oxygen separated so that the carbon stays in some kind of solid form.
Oh, and we'll want to go get a load of hydrogen, likely from Jupiter, to mix with that Oxygen to form water. Your fleet of transports moving CO2 to Mars needs to make a detour on the way back.
Edit: fixed a word and also lol, just start with building a planet-sized solar shade, says some a-hole on the internet.
Make the atmosphere thick enough to not freeze on the far side, and it'll be absolutely boiling on the near side. The slow rotation means that there is no happy medium: either you've got an atmosphere freezing solid, or you're cooking half the planet at any given moment.
Do we? I think what you really want is to equalize the amount of solar radiation hitting all sides. And if I can build a planet-sized solar shade, well, why not go one step further and instead make a swarm of mirrors in orbit?
When they orbit the sun-facing side, they reflect the light away from Venus. When they're opposite, they're in darkness anyway. But when they're in between, they reflect light towards the dark side of the planet!
I choose the angle of every mirror in this swarm, and thus I choose the amount of solar radiation hitting each point on the planet at all times. Thus, Venus shall have one timezone, Venus Standard Time, and I swear to you it shall not have anything like Daylight Savings Time.
I read once that to slow Earth's rotation down to a stop, you'd need to perfectly sling 6 or more moons at it.
Maybe blowing up the comets before they reach the atmosphere and giving them a larger impact area could help.
Not only could you transport materials around, but you could make Venus spin in 24 hours in ~10^4 years using currenr Earth electricity output and a super-conducting emDrive -- I did the math a couple years ago.
Pair one such drive with a nuclear reactor and have it fly away from the sun for a while and then back - it will hit ludicrous speed on the way back, likely a good fraction of C. And there is hardly anything that can be done to prevent that as it needs just energy to gain speed, not bulky inefficient reaction mass.
After kickstarting a Lunar economy so you can manufacture and launch them well outside Earth's gravity well: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gOr-Gd58zu8
That would be step one, step two would be waiting a few million years and see how it turns out.
The bigger issue with this idea would be getting enough hydrogen to Venus to create oceans. That would require hitting Venus with comets or possibly extracting hydrogen from a gas giant which seems impractical.
Going to space to mine a nickel-iron asteroid would be out, for very much the same reason.
Rhodium is especially scarce, palladium not so much, but it's a political metal, a substantial part of world production is not in the West.
Rhodium use would go up were it more available, lots of interesting chemistry there, and political security is also worth a lot, but extraction from nuclear reprocessing isn't happening. That's the intersection of politics and the markets, where markets become political.
You basically start by building a roof over part of the surface, then you pump it full of breathable atmosphere and inhabit it. Then another part and so on until you have covered the whole surface or got bored by it. A huge benefit if that you can get (localized) results almost immediately instead of pumping massive resource into regular terraformation for possibly hundreds of years to only have useful results at the very end. Also you can do this on worlds that would never hold an atmospere (Moon, asteroids) or would loose it over time (Mars).
As humans, we only have to top it off every hundred thousand years or so.
Carbonaceous asteroids are pretty abundant, and Mars has oxygen in great quantity. The asteroid belt is also much closer to Mars than Venus is.
Nitrogen seems to be the building block that's a bit scarce. Venus definitely has some, but it's unclear that it's the first or best source to tap.
Phobos should have plenty of carbon too, and it's not really far from it. IIRC, it's close enough that with our current tech, we could build a "space elevator" there, that drags in martian atmosphere.
Mars could require less mass. I'd go for a charged ring structure diverting protons from solar winds and focusing them into a spot on the surface to replenish the planets lost hydrogen and directing electrons towards the the edges so that the atmosphere would slow them down.
Imagine the autoras. After the sun sets, you'd see all those electrons plunging through the atmosphere and screaming in blue agony as they lose speed by hitting the CO2 molecules.
No, it's the partial pressure of CO2.
Consider that for a very large portion of the earth's surface the crushing pressure makes it damned difficult to get a probe to the surface, and we already have the advantage of starting 5-6 miles away.
And while I realize Venus isn't an ocean world, comparing it to our oceans does open your eyes to the idea that a focus on the surface, that is sea floor, ignores where a lot of the interesting stuff is going on.
Of course there is still the temperature and the sulfuric acid . . .
Note that humans can and do work at higher pressures than this.
> These only seven dives to more than 300 m do not include the dives of professional saturation divers using a divers bell at constant pressure for the transfer from surface to ground and back. These seven dives are done with decompression in the water not using a divers bell and saturation diving.
The selected answer is talking about huge pressurisation changes in a short amount of time, that's a very different situation and nothing like what commercial deepdivers do.
Saturation diving involves weeks of adjustment in a bell.
Much of the science suggests we haven't even come close to pushing the physical limits but no one is willing to risk it, the world record was set 30 years ago.
The opening paragraph states that scientists have found Phosphine and what conclusions they have draw about it (aka possible life). The next paragraph starts with the author stating, I quote, "I'm skeptical". The reason given that a mars rock that got scientists all excited 90's turned out to be a dead end. Come on. Then the author rambles on about how unfeasible it would be to explore Venus compared to Mars as if that has anything to do with life on Venus.
Perhaps that's so. It certainly doesn't directly address scientific issues with the exploration/exploitation of Venus and/or Mars.
Rather, the main theme of the blog post seems to be:
The challenges of exploring Venus/searching for life are metaphorically similar to current issues here on Earth (climate change, SARS-Cov2, etc.), while Mars represents the endless expansion/frontier attitudes of 18th-20th century mercantilism/capitalism.
As such, I found the post to be more about how humans think about solving problems and a plea for a new kind of thinking. As Lincoln put it: "The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise -- with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country."
While I certainly don't disagree with the sentiment, I'm not convinced that the metaphor is a good one. Exploring/colonizing/exploiting off-world resources, regardless of where they might be, will require us to "...think anew, and act anew."
All that said, perhaps I completely misunderstood the blogger's point. But I don't think so.
Edit: Clarified the amount of sense I think the author of the blog post was making and cleaned up my own verbiage/reasoning.
That's a good summary of what I was trying to say, and I appreciate the effort you put into deciphering my rambling style. This wasn't a post I expected to get much attention!
Of course long term habitability might suffer but hey, thats a problem for the next generation.
> On the other hand, we have efficiently terraformed the hell out of Earth to increase shareholder profit.
No actually we have terraformed earth so people could live comfortably, have heating in their home and ability to move around and many, many other things. And this continues because people in China, India and Indonesia and others would like to have these things too.
Unter a socialist government (assuming it would be able to consistently grow) where 'sharehoolder profit' don't matter you would equally have polluted the and terraformed the earth.
Casting this as some 'greedy elites' abusing the 'good people' is a fundamental misunderstand of the situation.
I don't see the point of a crewed scientific mission like these to Venus's atmosphere, except to claim the credit for just having sent humans there. It seems like accepting a lot of risk for very little gain, since, unlike Mars, it's not like there'd be any complex manipulation or interaction with the environment to do there.
I agree with your general point (why send humans when robots will do?) but the engineering feasibility studies push the envelope of what we can imagine -- and reveal where more work is required. I tend to read JBIS from that perspective.
That's not my general point, actually. I'm generally supportive of sending humans on exploration missions, but blimps on Venus seems off. It's like a manned mission down into the lava pool of an active volcano. Sure, maybe you could actually do it, but there's little point to do so except for the bragging rights.
If humans wanted to visit the atmosphere of Venus, it seems a lot safer and more practical to do it in a supersonic rocket plane. Then you don't have to worry about launching a manned return rocket from a dirigible.
I’d love to see humans afloat on Venus, but I tried really hard to argue with the grandparent and I can’t really see what humans bring to the equation that a decked out sensor array wouldn’t do for significantly cheaper other than simply humans being at Venus and learning how to keep humans alive at Venus.
A human on mars controlling the rovers would have explored a lot more than the rovers did - assuming they survived as long as the rovers have (this assumption is probably false even if we could get humans there - humans are fragile in ways robots are not)
That's true, but that doesn't matter so much floating in the Venusian clouds. Making a manned blimp has zero advantages over a robot blimp controlled from a space station. The only thing a manned blimp would have over a robot one is the humans could potentially do unplanned maintenance. However, the cost of that is orders of magnitude more complexity and cost over a robot blimp (life support and rockets to get back into orbit) and a hard deadline to end the mission. You could probably send five robot blimps or more for the cost of a manned one, which could potentially remain operational long past their design life. Send them one or two at a time, so ad-hoc modifications can be made.
It's really a no-brainer to chose options besides human exploration of the Venusian atmosphere.
If there's any chance at all now that Venus might have life, I'd think it worthy of about the same amount of funding Mars missions have had in their search for organics.
Atmospheric Venutian [life] could be very interesting and potentially very useful. If it's found to exist in any way, I'd not be too surprised to see an entirely privately-funded* mission in a couple of decades. Venus is energetically cheaper to get to versus Mars too.
I think it's a compelling target - 'Tomorrow's Antarctica'. You've got to have people there to do the science stuff.
* as in Biotech etc funded.
Musk has two companies, Plan A, help not destroy earth. Plan B, inspire people and create backup.
Bezos doesn't want to go to Mars, he want people living in space and have the earth be a nature park of sorts.
In Kelvin we see it's about 1.5x as hot.
Or if you look at distance from "comfy" (25 C) to "dead" it's about 3x as far as dead from comfy so the conclusion still works .
Boiling point depends on atmospheric pressure. On Venus (93 bar) melting point is about 0C  and it boils at 305.6C. Interestingly under pressure "water becomes less polar and behaves more like an organic solvent such as methanol or ethanol" .
The clouds of sulfuric acid might sting a bit.
> floating cities on Venus are not as cool as "normal" cities on Mars.
For me floating cities are much cooler.
Surely a bit of an exaggeration? The mostly carbon dioxide, 1 atm of pressure area is not bad, but it coincides with the thickest cloud coverage. The clouds which are composed of sulfuric acid.
We could survive, maybe. But Cloud City would simply reek of rotten eggs, at all times, you'd never escape the stink of it.
Which is fortunate, because some parts of the country have iron-eating bacteria in their water supply, which produce SO2.
New arrivals always notice though!
Re: Venus, unfortunately H2O + SO2 is a bigger problem than the smell of rotten eggs.
“Recent studies from September 2019 concluded that Venus may have had surface water and a habitable condition for around 3 billion years and may have been in this condition until 700 to 750 million years ago.”
> Although many of the organisms borne aloft are likely occasional visitors to the upper troposphere, 17 types of bacteria turned up in every sample. Researchers like environmental microbiologist and co-author Kostas Konstantinidis suspect that these microbes may have evolved to survive for weeks in the sky, perhaps as a way to travel from place to place and spread their genes across the globe. "Not everybody makes it up there," he says. "It's only a few that have something unique about their cells" that allows them survive the trip.
Mars problems have grand scale but we can see them from the beginning. Google building the original web search index was a Mars problem: massive (at the time) but tractable. Robot cars probably similar: it's an engineering and world mapping problem, and it's tough but we can get there.
Venus problems are knotty, hard to decompose, and characterised by discovering new problems as we go along. UBI is a Venus problem. Vaccines/CRISPR/biology are all Venus problems. Physics is a Venus problem -- notably at the time of the ultraviolet catastrophe which upended everything in the early 20C.
My take is that technology has mainly dealt with Mars problems till now, but now we're facing Venus problems.
Interesting point, worth developing, but a less distracting label and clearer framing, with multiple strongly contrasting examples from different domains might help.
The reason why Mars feels more like a "tractable" problem is simply that we have chased it for decades. Noone gave Venus the attention and funding it could have used to become a tractable problem.
So, really as long as you have an air-tight membrane made of whatever material resists the atmospheric gases you're good to go. And if you keep a positive pressure then small ruptures of the membrane or leaks are not catastrophic for the occupants, who enjoy comfy conditions and plenty of solar power.
The Space Merchants (Kornbluth/Pohl) is an oddball novel about a hyper-consumerist future, where the settlement of Venus is driven by marketing. It's all about an advertising executive.
Both highly recommended, for different reasons.
Mars is a rock useful for many things, no doubt, but not for humans to live on. As challenging as it seem right now, Venus' problems are solvable, and it just happens to offer the necessary conditions for humans to live on and avoid speciation. If this kind of terrestrial gravity was nowhere to be found but on a planet somewhere as distant as Pluto, we'd still had to go for that (and be thankful for it to exist in our Solar system at all) instead of going for Mars-sized planet and orbit. It just fascinates me that it happens to be the closest us. Humanity will get there and will learn a lot from the process, which is nearly a must-have experience for any further much costlier colonization endeavor on another planetary system.
Unfortunately this has some astronomical ring to it. (I do not think most geologists think of the earth as a planet, to be honest.)
(read with a generous interpretation).
Badgers are known as hardy animals. They also like to dig, which could help with the terraforming.
Why aren't we talking about using badgers to colonize Venus?!? How do we know they haven't beat us to it?
 Of hot sulfuric acid
distance to Venus = 25,000,000 mi
distance to Mars = 34,000,000 mi