NASA considers possibilities for manned mission to Venus

December 18, 2014 by Bob Yirka weblog
HAVOC. Credit: NASA Langley Research Center

(Phys.org) —NASA's Systems Analysis and Concepts Directorate has issued a report outlining a possible way for humans to visit Venus, rather than Mars—by hovering in the atmosphere instead of landing on the surface. The hovering vehicle, which they call a High Altitude Venus Operational Concept (HAVOC), would resemble a blimp with solar panels on top, and would allow people to do research just 50 kilometers above the surface of the planet.

Most everyone knows that NASA wants to send people to Mars—that planet also gets most of the press. Mars is attractive because it looks more like Earth and is relatively close to us. The surface of Venus on the other hand, though slightly closer, is not so attractive, with temperatures that can melt lead and 92 times that of Earth. There's also that thick carbon dioxide atmosphere with , lots of earthquakes, volcanoes going off and terrifying lightning bolts. So, why would anyone rather go to Venus than Mars? Because of far lower radiation and much better solar energy.

No one wants to go the surface of Venus, at least not anytime soon, instead, researchers at NASA are looking into the possibility of sending people to hover in the sky above the planet, conducting research in a far less dangerous place than even on the surface of Mars. At 50 kilometers up, an HAVOC would experience just one atmosphere of atmospheric pressure and temperatures averaging just 75 degrees Celsius, with radiation levels equivalent to those in Canada. Astronauts on Mars, on the other hand would experience 40 times the amount of radiation typically faced back here on Earth, which suggests they'd have to live deep underground to survive—a problem that scientists have not yet solved.

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The one hitch to floating around Venus, would of course be, figuring out how to get both humans and an HAVOC to the planet, and then for getting the humans back home safely to Earth at some point. The initial plans call for a several missions, building up to the final, with space ships first carrying unmanned vehicles to test the concept of an HAVOC, followed by missions where humans would orbit the planet in space. Next, scientists would have to come up with a feasible design for deploying a floating vehicle able to unfurl, fill itself with gas, and hover for long stretches of time in the sky above the planet. After that, vehicles would have to be designed to work with such a craft, to serve as a ferry between the HAVOC and an orbiting craft, to travel back and forth to Earth, and perhaps between a craft that orbits Earth and the surface. A lot of work, no doubt, but one that seems possible even as more and more space scientists are begining to wonder about the feasibility of sending humans to the of Mars.

Explore further: Researcher studies possibility of metal snow on Venus

More information: via IEEE Spectrum

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georgejmyersjr
not rated yet Dec 18, 2014
The Russians have had balloon missions on Venus before, 20+ years ago. It would be a good idea, roughly the size of the Earth, in retrograde rotation, opposite ours and the rest of the solar system, why?
katesisco
2 / 5 (4) Dec 18, 2014
Venus was, of course, the original goal.
JamesG
1.7 / 5 (7) Dec 18, 2014
Never happen. It's not sexy enough. Mars is sexy but we are no where near ready to go short of a probably suicide mission. The only thing that makes sense is to colonize the Moon and develop technology to do these things. But, politicians drive these things and they only drive where they can get votes. Sad really.
antialias_physorg
4.1 / 5 (9) Dec 18, 2014
Problem would be: how do you get the people back home Once they are on a blimp in the atmosphere? Or is this supposed to be a one-way suicide mission?

On Mars you could at least fire multiple unmanned follow-up missions with supplies/fuel that would give a decent chance of a lander reascending. But when you're floating in a blimp: how do you catch supplies? And I don't see a one-shot mission where there's a lab suspended under a blimp with enough rocket fuel to get back up as particularly feasible.
RichTheEngineer
5 / 5 (3) Dec 18, 2014
Already foreseen by Arthur Clarke; "A Meeting with Medusa"; granted it takes place partly in Jovian atmosphere, but the idea's the same. About time NASA considered it.
RichTheEngineer
1.8 / 5 (6) Dec 18, 2014
Antialias:

1. Blimp gondola could be equipped with rocket (or jet) to rendezvous with orbiter. Or there could be a second vehicle suspended from a balloon which could be used to transport to/from orbit.
2. No one is suggesting suicide missions yet, but if you'd like to volunteer, I'll support your request.
3. Supplies could be suspended from balloon, then captured by blimp crew.

It's doable.
cjn
5 / 5 (4) Dec 18, 2014
I love space exploration as much as the next guy, but what's the practical end state of having manned balloon-labs orbiting Venus? Could we use collected data to terraform the planet to make it habitable? -is that the objective? Would a human presence there provide enough additional research data to justify the investment in solving the human factors complications of this proposed mission?

Not to be a downer, but that is an extremely technically challenging, high-risk proposal, which might provide marginally more gain than just unmanned missions -and money is in real short supply.

Manned mission to Mars or the Moon present the opportunity to land, colonize, and draw natural resources from the environment. We've already managed to get unmanned spacecraft to Venus in the past, why not just focus on getting the balloon-lab engineering right and invest in exploration which could lead to colonization on other rocks.
javjav
4 / 5 (1) Dec 18, 2014
On Mars you could at least fire multiple unmanned follow-up missions with supplies/fuel that would give a decent chance

Venus could be easier than Mars. To start with, the travel time is around half, and you also use aero-breaking much more efficiently. A spaceship with current chemical rocket technology could go to Venus, stay there for a couple of weeks and come back without waiting two years for next planet alignment as required for Mars. This is a huge reduction in resources, mass and complexity, and also the radiation problem is much easier to solve. Solar energy is also much more abundant on Venus. For returning, a Falcon9 rocket (reusable version) would be enough. On descent use aerobreak and little fuel,pick up a small capsule with the astronauts at the HAVOC height, which could ascend much higher to facilitate it (just use hydrogen for ascending and take advantage of the higher pressure, 90 times earth pressure). Re-fill on orbit and return
Rotoscience
1 / 5 (11) Dec 18, 2014
An amazingly ridiculous idea. Why the f*** for? Nobody cares. Why not send a fish to Pluto. Would take longer but make as much sense.
SoylentGrin
5 / 5 (5) Dec 18, 2014
There is also the possibility of life in the clouds of Venus. That's worth checking out.
imido
Dec 18, 2014
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
erikbruner
not rated yet Dec 18, 2014
Temperatures high enough to melt lead, Pressures 100 x higher than Earth. - It would be suicide to land there. Orbit fine, land forget it.
hemipwr54
1 / 5 (2) Dec 18, 2014
Musk missed!
No story how Musk missed but had he made it it would plastered all over the place.
Disinformation, propaganda by the media.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.9 / 5 (7) Dec 18, 2014
Problem would be: how do you get the people back home Once they are on a blimp in the atmosphere? Or is this supposed to be a one-way suicide mission?
You didnt watch the video. Watch the video.
1. Blimp gondola could be equipped with rocket (or jet) to rendezvous with orbiter. Or there could be a second vehicle suspended from a balloon which could be used to transport to/from orbit
You didnt WATCH the VIDEO. WATCH the VIDEO.
hurricane25
5 / 5 (7) Dec 18, 2014
outlining a possible way for humans to visit Venus, rather than Mars
Huh? NASA has no money even for maintenance of ISS 300 km above the Earth. Not to say, such a mission will lack the meaning, if everything during it could be done with robots in much cheaper way.


Because of people that would rather spend it on more wars before considering spending it on exploration of humanity. Kind of sad.
Urgelt
3 / 5 (2) Dec 19, 2014
Too damned expensive. I'd much prefer putting the money into a robust unmanned space program. Better science for the money, more useful technology with Earth spin-offs (robotics advancement, especially), and the prospect of a robotically-developed infrastructure to reduce the cost of eventual manned programs. Robots first, people second.
Protoplasmix
5 / 5 (1) Dec 19, 2014
Too damned expensive.
Actually, with the fractional-reserve lending system of the banking cartels, they can "print" as much debt as they need, and erm, I see what you mean.
antialias_physorg
4 / 5 (4) Dec 19, 2014
Blimp gondola could be equipped with rocket (or jet) to rendezvous with orbiter.

That would make it exceedingly heavy. Blimps (even in a dense atmosphere) are not known for a copious carrying capacity

...'engineer'? Yeah...right. Pull the other one - it's got bells on.
Modernmystic
not rated yet Dec 19, 2014
I have to agree with cjn. IMO The two main reasons for colonization are;

1) Get all our eggs out of one basket. This increases the chances of the survival of the species if we can make them self sufficient

2) Exploration, like war, always tends to spur technological advances. This will hopefully help us toward extra solar colonization and exploration.

There are others I'm sure I'm over looking, but I don't see how a mission to Venus accomplishes either of these goals. Including the gas giants it makes no sense to try Mercury (yet) or Venus unless we do a hell of a lot of terraforming first. Pick almost any other moon or celestial body and it makes more sense. Even some large asteroids have advantages over Mars or the Moon.

Too bad Venus doesn't have a moon....
Modernmystic
not rated yet Dec 19, 2014
Too damned expensive. I'd much prefer putting the money into a robust unmanned space program. Better science for the money, more useful technology with Earth spin-offs (robotics advancement, especially), and the prospect of a robotically-developed infrastructure to reduce the cost of eventual manned programs. Robots first, people second.


The problem here, as we've seen in spades, is that you never get to the people part....have we.
cjn
5 / 5 (1) Dec 19, 2014
I have to agree with cjn. IMO The two main reasons for colonization are;

1) Get all our eggs out of one basket. This increases the chances of the survival of the species if we can make them self sufficient

2) Exploration, like war, always tends to spur technological advances. This will hopefully help us toward extra solar colonization and exploration.


Absolutely concur on both. We have a fragile existence which can be terminated by geologically or cosmically trivial events. While a national endeavor can't be reasonably predicated solely on species preservation, [US/ESA] colonization can achieve that while ensuring that Western liberal values are those which expand into this new frontier.

On your second point: I think that a lot of our social angst comes from a complete dearth of places to explore, of challenges to overcome. [cont]
cjn
5 / 5 (2) Dec 19, 2014
We are a naturally competitive and curious species of explorers, not to mention an American population [speaking for me at least] which is composed almost entirely of people who shed their previous lives to make an uncertain go of things in a new place. That is the spirit of exploration, and now we have no where to go, nothing to see, no natural challenge to conquer. Instead, we rapaciously attempt to steal crumbs from a closed pie, instead of seeking to expand it and opportunity. We seek mediocrity for all, at the expense of greatness for any.

Which explains my frustrations with developing manned missions to an asteroid (absurdly unnecessary and risk intensive) or manned missions to float around Venus with no appreciable benefit to the rest of society. We should be creating vehicles to explore our local space and enabling our adventurers and explorers to go out and strive for great and difficult achievements, to open new worlds for our children.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.3 / 5 (3) Dec 19, 2014
Blimp gondola could be equipped with rocket (or jet) to rendezvous with orbiter.

That would make it exceedingly heavy. Blimps (even in a dense atmosphere) are not known for a copious carrying capacity

...'engineer'? Yeah...right. Pull the other one - it's got bells on.
Imbecile still hasnt watched the vid of the blimp gondola with a rocket for return to orbit. Unbelievable.

Just how dumb are you aa?
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.3 / 5 (3) Dec 19, 2014
BYW airships can have more lift capacity than any other aircraft.

"The Walrus HULA (Hybrid Ultra Large Aircraft) project was a DARPA-funded experiment to create an airship capable of traveling up to 12,000 nautical miles (about 22,000 km) in range, while carrying 500-1000 tons of cargo. In distinct contrast to earlier generation airships, the Walrus HULA would be a heavier-than-air vehicle and would generate lift through a combination of aerodynamics, thrust vectoring, and gas buoyancy generation and management."
Urgelt
5 / 5 (2) Dec 19, 2014
"The problem here, as we've seen in spades, is that you never get to the people part....have we."

We never have had the technology to send people to Mars and back at a reasonable cost with a high degree of assurance that they'll survive the trip. That's hardly a valid criticism of the 'robotics first' approach, since that, and any other, scheme must rely on tech we don't yet have.

So the question isn't what to do with current tech, but how to develop tech to support a manned space program in the solar system.

Robotics is the way to go.
kochevnik
5 / 5 (3) Dec 19, 2014
Because of people that would rather spend it on more wars before considering spending it on exploration of humanity. Kind of sad.
On positive side, these eternal wars will prepare humanity for alien attack
dan42day
3 / 5 (2) Dec 19, 2014
As a fervent NASA supporter, what really irritates me is that they apparently can't afford to launch a human into space before 2021 at the earliest (and we know what that means), yet they give non-supporters the impression that all they do is fritter away money studying lame-brained ideas like this. How do they ever expect to raise more funding for serous projects?
Osiris1
not rated yet Dec 20, 2014
Too much risk for too little return. No food there! No air except what you brought! If you fall, you are GONE!! NO margin for error in inflating that balloon and heaven help you if you got a leak. 160 degrees in a sulfuric acid laden atmosphere is NOT a 'twin' of earth, period.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.7 / 5 (3) Dec 20, 2014
"The problem here, as we've seen in spades, is that you never get to the people part....have we."

We never have had the technology to send people to Mars and back at a reasonable cost with a high degree of assurance that they'll survive the trip
It was the same with Columbus.
That's hardly a valid criticism of the 'robotics first' approach, since that, and any other, scheme must rely on tech we don't yet have
-But we will within a decade or 2.
So the question isn't what to do with current tech, but how to develop tech to support a manned space program in the solar system.

Robotics is the way to go.
The problem is, we're in danger of extinction by living on only one planet. We need to establish self-sustaining colonies ASAP. It's more dangerous to sit here and wait than to try to leave.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3 / 5 (4) Dec 20, 2014
Too much risk for too little return. No food there! No air except what you brought! If you fall, you are GONE!! NO margin for error... and heaven help you if you got a leak
-Columbis heard these very same arguments. Nowadays many people spend their whole lives on ships, and in buildings.

Robotics will enable the unparalleled exploitation of natural resources and construction of unimagined megastructures. Floating cities in the Venusian atmosphere are very feasible.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (4) Dec 20, 2014
2) Exploration, like war, always tends to spur technological advances. This will hopefully help us toward extra solar coloniza
Exploration has always been a military endeavor. They call it recon. This is why NASA is a military agency.

Curiosity is an instinct meant to identify threats and to define the theater of operations. It is not some spiritual motivation, it is meant to enhance our survival to reproduce.
Protoplasmix
not rated yet Dec 20, 2014
Exploration has always been a military endeavor. They call it recon. This is why NASA is a military agency ... it is meant to enhance our survival.
When it comes to invading a foreign territory, collaboration in establishing a colony (building infrastructure, providing effective communication between individual members and logistics to deliver food and process wastes), dispatching scouts deeper into the territory, providing for the common defense of the colony as well as bringing the host territory to its knees at times, and even tolerating freeloaders as members in the colony, the over 500 different species of bacteria in dental plaque (a biofilm) don't really have a military—the cells don't even have nuclei. Militaries destroy life and make the territory itself inhospitable for just about all lifeforms, other than biofilms of course and maybe some extremophiles. Gotta be strictly a survival thing, exploration, I think.
baudrunner
not rated yet Dec 20, 2014
Venus will be closest to Earth next August 15, 2015, when it is about 40 million kilometers away. Mars at that time will be almost as far away as it gets, close to 400 million km away on that day. Venus and Earth do not meet again until March, 2017. Mars will be closest to us in May, 2016, at about 55 million km. Mars and Earth do not meet again until August, 2018. Today, they are both very far away from us.

The distances are a bit of a factor, but should not influence the decision to do this mission. I think it would be a waste of time, unless there is perceived to be some dire need for it, which purpose escapes me at present.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (2) Dec 20, 2014
invading
What you are describing is what Patton called 'recon in force'.

After watching events unfold in the third world in the last few years are you still so fucking NAIVE that you think civilized people can allow themselves to be overrun by the kind of people who slaughter schools full of innocent children because they think their GOD is pleased with this behavior?

OVERPOPULATION makes war inevitable. This has been the case ever since humans became able to hunt those predators which were keeping their numbers in check. War CREATED us. Conflict among equals alone is responsible for our unwieldy, delicate, unsustainable brains.

Only within the last few gens has the west been able to break the cycle of violence by limiting growth. But it is surrounded by medieval cultures which give it no choice but to fight.

You'll forgive us if we decide to act preemptively? Only an idiot would wait until the enemy enters its territory before acting. Attack is the best defense.
Hev
3 / 5 (2) Dec 20, 2014
Venus is interesting to survey and find out more, but not at all attractive to land on. In fact lethal. There seems no point in sending manned craft there, when the craft themselves can do all the work and transmit their data back to Earth.
Protoplasmix
not rated yet Dec 21, 2014
After watching events unfold … still so fucking NAIVE … OVERPOPULATION makes war inevitable … War CREATED us. You'll forgive us if we decide to act preemptively?

You're talking to someone who served under the defense policy of, " Don't even think about it, or we'll turn the place into a nuclear winter wonderland."

As for preemptively, I see it like Rachel Maddow and others: https://www.youtu...WYb4HLH8

There's something terribly wrong in bestowing any single entity with the power of judge, jury and executioner, especially in one with a track record of propagating much falsehood.

From what I've seen in the last few years, forgiveness and forgetfulness isn't what to expect.

Oh, and I watched the video, numerous times, <3 the soundtrack, amazing what a few rocket scientists can do in their spare time compared to multimillion dollar box office productions.
Osiris1
1 / 5 (1) Dec 22, 2014
:Better solution would be the shuttle envisioned by the Chinese in their website Emdrive.com...or .cn! They have worked on a second generation of these Roger Shawler devices and can get far more thrust from them given certain input power in KW. According to the Chinese scientists in LOTs of calculations, they can get 1metric tonne of thrust/ KiloWatt. Problem is a light nuclear or fusion reactor. Today that would be nuclear. Second problem is power distribution network to get current carriers to carry enough power. Third is while thrust is nice, a limitation factor is acceleration is limited to .05(gravitational force)....just a few feet/(sec^2). However, this is reactionless so can thrust as long as the power is on. This is the END of the rocket as we know it. New craft are like star trek shuttles, slow ones. But they get up and back under control with no excessive g forces, and could land on a rooftop. No size limit=huge ships!!
Lex Talonis
5 / 5 (1) Dec 22, 2014
Why don't they just send an airconditioner to Venus to cool it down?

Then everyone can go.
flying_finn
not rated yet Dec 22, 2014
Been there.....done that...........

http://en.wikiped...Venera_8
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (3) Dec 22, 2014
You're talking to someone who served under the defense policy
Translation: "I grew up in the sixties and swallowed all that hippy crap and still haven't crapped it out."
There's something terribly wrong in bestowing any single entity with the power of judge, jury and executioner, especially in one with a track record of propagating much falsehood
Your naïveté is tiresome and a little nauseating. We are right now watching the effects of overpopulation in lawless regions throughout Africa and the Middle East. There is nothing wrong with an overarching Authority that prevents such horror from happening.

But first the Cause itself must be addressed. The world wars ended the tyranny of religion throughout Eurasia and communism ensured a thorough eradication.

The cultures which would have forbidden family planning were destroyed. The most meaningful Result was the ONE BILLION ABORTIONS which have taken place since. Overgrowth arrested. Peace reigns.
Modernmystic
not rated yet Dec 22, 2014
There's something terribly wrong in bestowing any single entity with the power of judge, jury and executioner, especially in one with a track record of propagating much falsehood


Whether one might agree with you or not, the statement is moot...because as long as human beings operate in hierarchical political systems this simply is the way it will be...period.

Best to get comfortable with it and pick between "evils", or you can continue to pretend reality is something that it isn't.

Also, Otto is generally correct in his overall point as I understand it. Exploration and the military have (historically at least) necessarily gone hand in hand. THIS is another example of something that will not change as long as human beings don't operate under one governmental authority. As long as there are at least two nation states there is the possibility of military conflict over new territory...and it's a likely one.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (2) Dec 22, 2014
I watched the maddow clip. WHY IS IT that people have such a hard time with inevitability? Seasons are inevitable. Old age and death are inevitable. Overgrowth and resulting conflict are inevitable when people are taught that tomorrow will take care of itself.

People - Leaders - who ignore these things face certain destruction. Millenia of experience has taught Them this. Natural selection culls individuals who cannot accept the inevitable and Prepare for it. It has always been the same for tribes, cultures, civilizations.

People have surrendered their natural ability to think and reason, to Shepherds who must consider the Greater Good.

It is also inevitable that sooner or later the species will face an extinction event. Therefore we must act preemptively to ensure our survival by establishing independent colonies elsewhere and wherever possible.

Joseph and pharaoh stored grain because overgrowth inevitably causes famine. Foresight is the most valuable of human qualities.
kochevnik
1 / 5 (3) Dec 22, 2014
We are right now watching the effects of overpopulation in lawless regions throughout Africa and the Middle East.
Have you been to Africa recently Ghost? Parts of Africa make USA look like the balkanized wasteland it is destined to be in the future. Even Tiajuana looks better that much of Los Angeles now. America is falling apart in infrastructure. Chinese are investing in Africa while the ME is enjoying your bombing campaigns

Religious idiots are a cause for concern but the cure is education. A crazy evolved monkey like a human doesn't automatically infer Plato's Republic. He needs education and awareness that something exists beyond his badlands. Internet does that

If you want a direct comparison, I find Africans as civilized as any American and probably more. They are much more civilized and educated than black Americans, broadly speaking
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (1) Dec 22, 2014
Tijuana? Here is credible evidence from one of your own state news rags.
http://rt.com/sho...ico-862/

-Doesnt much look like rodeo drive to me.
Chinese are investing in Africa
Perhaps they are missing some parts.
http://uberly.com...somalia/
Religious idiots are a cause for concern but the cure is education
They are already very well educated to the fact that anything you have to teach them is evil. This is what the name boko haram MEANS. This is why they burn schools with children inside.
They are much more civilized and educated than black Americans
Perhaps, here and there. But nowhere in the US are rogue religionist armies kidnapping children for sale or for military conscripts. These are fairly common in africa, nyet?
TheKnowItAll
not rated yet Dec 24, 2014
Let's face it. This generation wants to colonize another planet, not float around it forever like clowns.
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (1) Dec 24, 2014
Exploration and the military have (historically at least) necessarily gone hand in hand.

Exploration for commerce and acquiring wealth occurred first.

The socialist states punish wealth creators leaving only the state to fund exploration.

End socialism and protect private property rights and there will be stations at the L points, colonies on the moon, floating ocean cities, ......

Maybe their are rare earth asteroids that could be captured and mined.

Those whining about running out of food can grow wheat on the moon and catapult it back to earth.

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