If the future goes the way two NASA scientists envision it, humans could one day hang out in airships in Venus’s clouds. That’s what Dale Arney and Chris Jones of NASA’s Langley Research Center have proposed with the High Altitude Venus Operational Concept, reports IEEE Spectrum. They even say that it may make more sense to go to Venus’s atmosphere than to colonize Mars.
With a temperature of 800 degrees Fahrenheit and an atmospheric pressure 92 times greater than Earth’s (akin to 3000 feet below sea level), Venus’s surface is uninhabitable. But it’s closer to Earth and Mars, with a mission taking up to 500 days less to get there, and if you venture about 80 miles above the surface, the atmospheric pressure and gravity level is similar to Earth’s. (The temperatures are still hotter than on Earth, highest reaching 167 degrees Fahrenheit, but IEEE says Mars’ average temperature of -81 degrees is a bigger issue.)
All of these traits, plus the fact that Venus’s atmosphere has a vast supplies of solar power and radiation levels comparable to that of Canada, Venus is “probably the most Earth-like environment that’s out there,” said Arney.
“The vast majority of people, when they hear the idea of going to Venus and exploring, think of the surface, where it’s hot enough to melt lead and the pressure is the same as if you were almost a mile underneath the ocean,” Jones told IEEE. “I think that not many people have gone and looked at the relatively much more hospitable atmosphere and how you might tackle operating there for a while.”
They propose that astronauts could venture out on 30-day missions, and eventually, we could build an entire floating city up there.