NASA unveils its plans to visit planet Venus, as it is worthy of colonization and exploration, said scientist Chris Jones who works on NASA’s High Altitude Venus Operational Concept. While others are focused on the comets and Mars, other NASA scientists start to eye Venus, and recommend a manned mission to Earth’s closest planet. From the Sun, Venus comes before Earth and since it is nearer, may cost less to explore.
Mars is the target of the U.S. space exploration program because its conditions are very tolerable and Earth-like. From the Sun, it follows Earth and is now under surveillance by NASA through three active robotic rovers. The agency has plans of sending astronauts to the Red Planet by 2030.
While some of NASA’s astronauts have plans to visit Venus and are thinking of sending men to the planet first instead of Mars, Venus actually has an oven-like global temperature, an atmospheric pressure that is 90 times more than Earth’s. Worst, it rains sulfuric acid, not water. The planet’s surface can kill a human being right away.
Indeed, Venus is closer to the Sun than Earth, and has a very hot surface, at 462° Celsius. Its lower atmosphere is like a highly-pressurized oven of toxic gases. However, it is actually nearer to Earth and sending a manned mission to the planet need not be on its surface.
Researchers’ studies suggest that hovering a few miles away from its atmosphere is fine as the conditions in that area are similar to Earth’s, while the pressure and temperature are more manageable. The Systems Analysis and Concepts Directorate of NASA’s Langley Research Center conducted a new study which says astronauts could orbit Venus in a helium-inflated airship and conduct experiments.
Fraser Cain of Universe Today calls Venus a horrible planet. True, he said, that it is part of the habitable region of the solar system where water exists on the surface in its liquid form. Unlike before, Venus currently has no water anymore.
Of all the planets orbiting the Sun, it was the one most identical to Earth – in size, mass, elements and gravity. Before, the Sun was not as hot as it is now. It was cool enough to let Venus lived like Earth with oceans, rivers and lakes; and perhaps, life in it.
However, when the Sun gets hotter, Venus receives solar radiation double than what Earth has. The planet reached a point where it evaporated all its water to the atmosphere, creating a roaring greenhouse effect. Water vapor’s components, hydrogen and oxygen were broken by the Sun’s ultraviolet heat and because hydrogen is so light, it escaped into space. Being left behind, oxygen combined with carbon and formed the thick carbon dioxide in Venus’ atmosphere today. With hydrogen escaping, Venus has no hope of getting water again; much less, to be inhabitable.
The sun is not stopping from getting hot and what it did to Venus, it might eventually do to Earth as well. When Earth’s temperature will boil the waters away, then Venus and Earth will become twins again, and uninhabitable.
However, if NASA’s plan to visit or study Venus with a manned mission is not merely for Venus alone, it might still be worthy. Jones said, there are some parts of the Mars mission that could be a bit easier with Venus. His co-researcher Dale Arney says a manned visit to Venus need not distract, but complement NASA’s Mars projects. Operations with planet Venus can even serve as practice runs before the Mars human-scale mission, he added.
By Judith Aparri
Photo courtesy of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center – Flickr License