# Taking a drive to Venus? Physicist does the math

In November of 2005, the satellite Venus Express at a speed of about 18,000 miles per hour made the trip to the second planet from the sun in about 155 days.

In the spirit of learning more about the complexities of , W&M News recently sat down with Eugeniy E. Mikhailov, an assistant professor of physics, to pose a question. Just how long it would take to drive a car—not a vehicle capable of achieving speeds of nearly 20,000 miles per hour like the Express—to travel to Venus?

Mikhailov, whose research focuses on quantum enhanced measurements stated that if everything went according to plan, that is, if the weight of the vehicle including passengers, fuel-consumption and the to Venus was just right, a car could make it to one of Earth's closest stellar neighbors in about half a century.

"First, you're going to need a rocket with enough fuel that can produce enough force to lift you and your payload of passengers and equipment needed for the trip off Earth's surface," he said. "In addition, fuel needed for the rest of the journey to control and perpetuate motion through space is very important. Oxygen, food and water must be available too. So, you're going to have to pack your belongings properly."

According to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at California Institute of Technology, it takes about three days to travel the nearly 240,000 miles to get to the moon from Earth using the optimal speeds of space-craft like Apollo 11. However, the specific distance can change depending on the trajectory taken, the JPL says.

But if you wish to move past that distance and head to Venus, plan on bringing a few books because Venus is about 100 times farther than the distance from the moon is to the Earth. And depending on the actual date, the distance between Earth and Venus increases, so you will have to time your trip to well in advance, according to Mikhailov.

"If you were to use the face of a clock as an example to denote our placement in the solar system it would look something like this," he said. "The Earth will signify the hour-hand, Venus will represent the minute-hand and the center of the clock is our sun. And just like a clock, there will be a point when those hands have moved apart so much that they are totally opposite of each other. Every couple of years or so, this same pattern applies to Earth and Venus. Venus' distance from Earth increases as the years on our planet passes. This will happen to the point that Venus' orbit will place it on the opposite side of the Sun while our planet's position remains on the side. Therefore, at its furthest, Venus' distance can be about 160,000,000 miles away or about 1.7 astronomical units so you're going to have to time your departure from Earth before our two come within their closest distance."

The speed of the vessel traveling to Venus is also extremely critical to a successful voyage, Mikhailov said. An automobile moving through space while maintaining a speed of 60 miles per hour to help conserve fuel would take about 50 years, said Mikhailov.

"Believe it or not, that's kind of a reasonable estimate," he said. "However, I wouldn't wish anyone to be stuck in a car with anyone else for that long of a time. You and your best friend may not be best friends after that trip."

According to Mikhailov, once on Venus, the travelers would have to consider the inhospitableness of the planet's atmosphere. The planet's temperature is a serious concern to human life and the equipment used to facilitate a working environment would be destroyed by the intense heat. Therefore, Mars—with its extremely cold temperatures—would probably be a better choice for humans to colonize even though it is farther away than Venus, said Mikhailov.

"Just think about how hot your oven gets when you're baking cookies at an average temperature of about 400 degrees Fahrenheit," he said. "Well, double that number on the planet of Venus. The planet's overall [surface] pressure is dangerous to human physiology as well. Our computers which we will need to operate on Venus are designed to operate within the Earth's normal temperature. Maybe a little below the point of freezing and maybe up to the point of boiling water. So, our equipment would be damaged or destroyed almost immediately and that will make living there very difficult."

However, there are a few things a human would appreciate living on the surface of Venus, Mikhailov said.

"We would feel slightly lighter [in weight]," he said. "The gravitational pull on that planet's surface is about 90 percent that of Earth's. So, that means we could possibly jump a little higher and walk a little easier."

Currently, Mikhailov is working on several quantum optics projects. In particular he is researching the imaging of the squeezed (below ) quantum states. He and his team hope to have preliminary results within the coming year.

Explore further

What is the weather like on Venus?

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Mar 29, 2017
Venus is an excellent planet to colonise in permanent orbit.

A habitable permanent space station orbiting Venus would be easier to accomplish, reach and come back from than trying to land on Mars and then taking off to come back just one time.

Much more would be accomplished and faster with a goal of placing a manned space station around Venus than doing anything with Mars.

Mar 29, 2017
Temperature isn't really the only problem you face on Venus. If you were to stand on the surface of Venus you'd experience the equivalent of 90 atmospheres pressure on Earth (which is about what you'd get if you dive down 1km into an Earth ocean. Most submariners will tell you that this is not conducive to your health. Nuclear submarines aren't even built to go that deep)

Oh...and then there's the highly corrosive atmosphere that will eat away your suit. So take your pick what will kill you first: crushing, boiling, or being dissolved (or just be blown apart by the Hurricane Category 5 style winds). Venus really ain't your preferred vacation spot.

Here's a fun in depth look of how a Cessna plane would fare on different planets:
https://what-if.xkcd.com/30/

Mar 29, 2017
There is no reason to land on Venus. In a permanent orbit there would be no different than in orbit around earth. We've had space stations orbiting earth continuously since 1971. Mankind does have a foreseable future living in orbits around all of the planets and in and on their moons within the next hundred years or so. Landing on any planet with people (except the moons) is a waste of time and resources.

Mar 29, 2017
Mankind does have a foreseable future living in orbits around all of the planets

I dunno, if we're talking about just living on stations (as opposed to, say, a purely scientific outpost) then there's no point in building a spacestation anywhere else but in Earth orbit.
I mean: if you aren't going to go planetside on Venus, why lug a spacestation to Venus orbit in the first place? Just for the view?

Mar 29, 2017
because one of these days the earth (and its only a mater of when not if) will get hit by something that exterminates all life on the surface as it has done several times in the past, The only survivors of mankind will be in orbiting habitats.

Since what hits us could be large enough to clear the area around earth as well we should spread out to each moon size object as far as we can reach... the more the better.

There's plenty of water and other resources everywhere to use and we must stay off the planes because it costs too much to take off from them and none of them are inhabitable or teraformable. Easy enough to build stations that are self sufficient using natural resources on moons and asteroids with current technologies. No magic required.

Mar 29, 2017
some of the smaller moons and asteroids out there are already good enough to use as space stations. Just deliver a tunnel boring machine to their surface and start drilling tunnels and make them like swiss cheese. Land two plugs vessels on the two ends of the tunnels and presto a space habitat is made in perpetual orbit without need of fuel or building materials.

Lots of water to grow stuff, make oxygen and make self sufficient settlements. This should be top priority and the research stuff happens along the way while securing the future of mankind to not go extinct because of an known and expected natural disaster.

We already have all the required technology. nothing new needs to be invented

Mar 29, 2017

Are we there yet!?!

Cause I gotta go potty...reeaalll badly!

Mar 30, 2017
Venus is an excellent planet to colonise in permanent orbit.

You make complete sentences and you're not rude so I didn't downvote you, but this has to be one of the silliest things I've ever seen here. Why in the world would we set up camp in orbit around another planet, given how much work it is to do so right in our own back yard. Mars is the only sensible destination for colonization.

Mar 30, 2017
because one of these days the earth (and its only a mater of when not if) will get hit by something that exterminates all life on the surface as it has done several times in the past, The only survivors of mankind will be in orbiting habitats.

And this necessitates an orbiting station around another planet ... exactly why?
Don't ge me wrong, I find the idea of stations pretty and romantic, but the rationale for orbiting *other* planets needs to be better than 'just because'.

(In any case, if we can start offloading substantial numbers of people into stations then we should be able to start developing tech that could save Earth from all but the largest impactors)

build stations that are self sufficient using natural resources on moons and asteroids

*On* moons and asteroids (or better in them) - makes a lot more sense. Though we still need to figure some tech to spin them up. Living in permanent (near) zero g is not an option for large scale habitats.

Mar 30, 2017

*On* moons and asteroids (or better in them) - makes a lot more sense. Though we still need to figure some tech to spin them up. Living in permanent (near) zero g is not an option for large scale habitats.

How about landing a tunnel boring machine on them and have them make large circular tunnels inside the moons and asteroids. now you send inside them rail car sized pods that will go inside these tunnels to continuously circle inside the round tunnel at a constant rate to create artificial gravity by centrifugal force generated to one side. The pods would be protected from cosmic radiation etc. and people inside would live with what they would feel was exactly like gravity.

Basically these vehicle pods would orbit inside the moons. So we do not build anything. We create a tunnel suitable for habitation inside moons and asteroids. Forget about landing people on planets... too costly and difficult and entrely not necessary

Mar 30, 2017
Mars is the only sensible destination for colonization.

Absolutely not. Mars is not habitable and never will be. Landing people there is suicide and there is no reason to. Maybe go to its moons and make a station in them so to act as a stepping stone on the way to Jupiter and Saturn whose moons are much more useful to colonise and to find living life on.

Mar 30, 2017
Well, it is perfectly obvious that the Martians are intelligent...They've already fled this Solar System to get away from us!

Siriusly now {rimshot!} any attempt to terraform other planets and large moons will first need a major infrastructure with a foundation of utilizing the asteroids and cometary material. In turn, that means developing means to overcome the improbability of surviving in zilch gravity.

And no, neither centripetal nor centrifugal force will adequately compensate in lengthy duration.

In my opinion, to try and keep the costs reasonably horrifyingly expensive, accessing and developing asters and comets. We will have to utilize robots and drones. People are scared that AI's will turn out as bad as people? Send the battery-shitters into Space!

Our biology evolved to the limits of this planet, Dirt I doubt if any of our descendants will enjoy being forced to adapt to a Spacer environment Or lack curses upon their forefathers who fled from Matricide

Mar 31, 2017
if you are in a box at the end of a string of the right length spinning at the right velocity you could not know if you are in the box spinning or at rest on the earth's surface. if the speed and distance is adjusted of the spinning box to match the force of gravity you cannot do any experiment inside the box that tells you which state you are in.

Mar 31, 2017
to try and keep the costs reasonably horrifyingly expensive, accessing and developing asters and comets. We will have to utilize robots and drones
@rrwillsj
this also gives more buck for the bang considering the limited exposure to threat with the greatest potential payout
I doubt if any of our descendants will enjoy being forced to adapt to a Spacer environment
i disagree
- there are plenty of people who would gladly volunteer to do it with current technology even knowing the threats/limitations

the human species is insanely curious as a whole, so we will eventually attempt to colonize space - which in turn will cause speciation dependent upon where one evolves, be it space or on a moon/planet elsewhere

of course, considering our history, this will also, in turn, cause friction, prejudice and segregation leading to war (unless something changes and there is a direct threat to the species as a whole bringing us together)

Mar 31, 2017
Absolutely not. Mars is not habitable and never will be. Landing people there is suicide and there is no reason to
@TopCat22
not sure i can agree with this - though i do think certain moons would be far better choices than Mars

Mars offers a close destination and reduced gravity along with thin atmosphere which would allow for leaving to explore further. though a smaller body would be better for this, Mars would be a better shield from impacts or other physical threats (underground colony) plus we can mine as we go for product to support the operation, be it direct or indirect

IMHO - we should start at our Moon, then Mars, then certain larger moons (Titan, Europa, etc) exploring and mining as much by remote/drone and only colonizing the larger bodies as operational centers for research etc

Mar 31, 2017
The problem with landing on mars is you cannot get off. Its fine to send probes there like we've done but forget colonies.

Before they can take off from the mars surface with people on board you will need cities size colonies and infrastructure.

At best mars will be a colony where people are sent to and to never return from. One way manned trips to the surface are about it.

Moons and asteroids are much easier to work with, land on and move from. Picture using a 12 Gage shotgun shell worth of energy to escape velocity from an asteroid vs a Saturn 5 rocket worth required from a planet.

Planets are gravity wells that take too much energy to get off of.

Mar 31, 2017
I urge all you dreamers of the Final Frontier to consider the accumulating evidence of physiological deterioration suffered by those lucky few who have had the experience of space travel.

And those are among the best and the brightest and physically prepared and psychologically monitored of the Earth's population.

I have said before and I now add the spacenauts to the list. Military recruits, the Military Academy cadets, trainees for First Responders and other youngsters enlisted in dangerous occupations, should have be required to supply samples of their sperm and ova. Stored and available for publicly subsidized and licensed reproduction.

As I warned in my previous comment. If people bear children away from a one-gee, earthtype environment? Their suffering will be horrendous! If they survive their exile long enough to be forced to reproduce? They will not thank us for inflicting such torment upon them. They will curse us for all the torture they will endure.

Apr 01, 2017
The problem with landing on mars is you cannot get off. Its fine to send probes there like we've done but forget colonies
@TopCat
under current technology only - and that is assuming there are no resources on Mars that we can harvest to create the means to leave the planet
Planets are gravity wells that take too much energy to get off of.
yes and no
this is entirely dependent upon what we find there when we probe and research the planet

i don't advocate for making a colony on any surface until and unless there are resources on said planet, moon or body that can be utilised for the sake of the colony, be it for fuel, food, or some other need we have

that would include the means to leave said gravity well

thought i would make that a little more clear...

Apr 01, 2017
I urge all you dreamers of the Final Frontier to consider the accumulating evidence of physiological deterioration suffered by those lucky few who have had the experience of space travel
@rrwillsj
i am absolutely taking this into consideration

but i am also taking into consideration that humans tend to only push for research that is necessary (or commercially viable) - and as such they've limited the funds for long term space exploration simply out of cost & limited human test subjects

medically, we are making great strides, but even more so technologically

taking that into consideration, then our primary threats in space may well be mitigated by technology

if we can spin up a station to test artificial gravity, this would be our first step towards space colonization - but it is also a costly step, so will require multi-cultural and national cooperation, especially in light of the current stresses upon research in science in certain nations

Apr 01, 2017
Getting off Mars (to low orbit) isn't all that hard (lower gravity and also much less 'air' friction). Getting from Mars to Earth is the trick. Just found this excellent map of the relative velocities you need to attain to get from point A to point B in the solar system.
http://space.stac...would-be

Apr 02, 2017
The forces generated by centripetal and centrifugal acceleration are not artificial gravity. Biological organisms do not respond to those forces the same as too a constant pull to the center of attracting mass.

That is a problem for which no one has even a clue to resolve. Cause we haven't even figured out the basic rules for the why of gravitational attraction.

There are good reasons for the ISS skulking about below the Van Allen Belts and the unreliable shielding of the Earth's Magnetic Field.

Continuous, unremitting, remorseless radiation. From every direction, of every variety of destructiveness.

Physical shielding is at best temporary before it physically deteriorates. A cloaking field that repels radiation would blind sensor equipment.

Perhaps a cloaking field that absorbs the radiation as stored energy? Or focused it away? How do you avoid causing interference or damage to neighboring habitats or satellites?

Apr 02, 2017
You build a circular subway tunnel inside a moon or asteroid that is several hundred miles in diameter. You accelerate train size connected pods to circle inside this tunnel. You now have a permanent colony with artificial gravity (that will act perfectly the same as regular gravity ... the people cannot tell the difference) and all even better protection from radiation and impacts that we have on the earth surface. Easy and cheaper than any other idea and using existing technology without having to invent anything new. Just a question of money... so say take all the money spend on defence and use it for this type of thing and we will colonise hundreds of asteroids and moons within one hundred years from now.

Apr 02, 2017
The forces generated by centripetal and centrifugal acceleration are not artificial gravity. Biological organisms do not respond to those forces the same as too a constant pull to the center of attracting mass
@rrwillsj
not sure i agree with you: http://link.sprin...4-1118-1

i am not seeing a lot of experiments in microgravity at all - just simulated microgravity
http://jap.physio...39.short

http://jap.physio...34.short

and those results are making claims counter to your claim

do you have any studies to support your claims?

Apr 02, 2017
@rrwillsj cont'd
Physical shielding is at best temporary before it physically deteriorates
depends on the mass - if you build under the surface of the moon, as TopCat noted above...

we also have technology that can support massive shielding... the problem is the cost of getting it into space
this is where cheap launch vehicles come into play - or some means of colonization on a lower G moon/planet for manufacturing

maybe a space manufacturing plant around or on asteroids? will it work?
maybe... IMHO - it can, but we need a LOT more research
but that takes \$\$
vicious circle
A cloaking field that repels radiation would blind sensor equipment
depends on where your sensors are, but i see that point

of course, we don't have cloaking technology either, so that is way down the road and also dependent upon future research

there is much about "cloaking" we can only speculate on based upon current knowledge which may or may not be applicable

Apr 03, 2017
Biological organisms do not respond to those forces the same as too a constant pull to the center of attracting mass.

For one you'll not get any birds or bees in such a setup. But it is enough to get the stimulus for correct bone growth/remodeling.

A station would certainly ned very good shielding. Digging down into an asteroid and spinning it up would be better. But we don't have the technology to confer that much angular momentum to a massive body (and not even the tech to dig large cavities without massive infrastructure investments)...so this is all pretty much next century stuff.

Apr 03, 2017
not even the tech to dig large cavities without massive infrastructure investments

We have a tunnel boring machine working near by digging subway tunnels. Its bigger than it has to be because on earth we have gravity and hard rock to deal with. One moons and asteroids the machine would be weightless. The thing is mostly empty space with cutting teeth at the front end... should be able origami such a device to fit into the cone end of a Saturn 5. Send it to the asteroid to autonomously start digging the tunnels. you can have more than one circuit in a good sized asteroid. When the tunnel is done you send link-able pod vessels that builds up over time to become a bigger and bigger colony spinning inside the tunnels.

Apr 03, 2017
We have a tunnel boring machine working near by digging subway tunnels.

Having that work on Earth and having that work in space are two sliiiiightly different things. These things need constant cooling, massive amounts of power and servicing.

For space we'd need something that is self sufficient and not prone to breakdowns. That's currently not possible for anything that needs to do some serious work.

Maybe we should just go the way that NASA is trying out and print our own 'asteroid'. Either directly from moon rock or by pulverizing an existing asteroid and reshaping it into whatever form we need.
http://www.geek.c...1530561/

Apr 03, 2017
These things need constant cooling, massive amounts of power and servicing.
not to mention anchoring...

Apr 03, 2017
These things need constant cooling, massive amounts of power and servicing.
not to mention anchoring...

The cutting blades would be arranged on two props that would turn in opposite directions so that the torque cancels out as it bores through the snow-ice gravel composition which is not like solid rock we go through on earth boring road tunnels through mountains. Again most of the stresses on these machine are their own weight here on earth. and on an asteroid these would be very lightweight machines running on solar power (or nuclear reactor batteries) and electric motors.

Apr 03, 2017
The cutting blades would be arranged on two props that would turn in opposite directions so that the torque cancels out as it bores through the snow-ice gravel composition
@TopCat
sorry

we were talking about low G or micro-gravity

on something Mars size it wouldn't be much of a problem... but asteroids or ...???
definitely need anchoring

Apr 03, 2017
Hmm, a presence in a Mars orbit, and mine Phobos and Deimos for resources for expansion. Without looking at an orbital simulation I can imagine coping with speed differentials might be tricky, but hey, it's just rocket science :)

Apr 03, 2017
According to https://en.wikipe..._of_Mars Phobos is unlikely to be useful for mining. Bury a big nuke and build in the cavity formed...
Speculation is great fun :)

Anchoring? Explosive harpoons with expanding heads. Almost worked last time.

Apr 04, 2017
again what i'm talking about requires no new technology... just money.

Landing and then taking off again from any large planet (Mars size and up) with something that arrived is still science fiction requiring technology for engines, refuelling or levitation not yet invented.

Apr 04, 2017
Bury a big nuke and build in the cavity formed

I dunno. Burying down to shield from cosmic radiation...just to live in a radioactive cavity...seems somewhat nonsensical.

Apr 04, 2017
Well, it's not as if we'd move in immediately, use something with a low neutron yield which should coat the inside with fused silicates with a lowish ratio of emitting isotopes, coat it with an expanded foam, wait for it to set, and Bob's your uncle :)
I found this, surprisingly good article about Project Plowshare, which covers this subject, and I suspect you'll make more sense of the numbers than I did :)

Apr 04, 2017
Oops, completely forgot to include the link :)
http://www.nextbi...html?m=1

Apr 05, 2017
@zerg
it would definitely be a great way to get more bang for our buck with the investment in nuclear weapons...

LOL

sounds a mite silly to bury a nuke to build a cavern though... if we can bury the nuke, we can build our own underground quarters

the nuke would definitely be faster, but will it be safer? that can go both ways...

most of that would depend upon the martian geology and the shielding we use inside the cavern
(now i have kirk yelling "shields up" in my head... at least, i hope that is in my head)

it is a great idea if we want to create the cavern now but won't inhabit it for a while...

plus we can use old stockpiled weapons from various nations so that there isn't "wasted" weaponry
yeah, that was a joke too

Apr 05, 2017
A cavern is also not a useful geometric structure. What we want is halls, passageways and rooms (and some way to get artificial gravity). A targetted digging operation could provide those without the need to later bring in walls and ceilings.

Apr 05, 2017
The forces generated by centripetal and centrifugal acceleration are not artificial gravity. Biological organisms do not respond to those forces the same as too a constant pull to the center of attracting mass.
I might be wrong because I am not a real scientist-Skippy like Really-Skippy and Bennie-Skippy are not either.

But I thought that is main premise that General Theory Of Relativity is based on. There is no difference between acceleration due to gravity and acceleration due to motions. Am I remembering that wrong?

Apr 05, 2017
@Ira
Imagine you're on the inside of a 12' wheel hub with your head at where the axle would be. Spin the wheel. Dunno how big the system have to be to not feel those effects. I think that's what he's getting at.
@aa
Well, I was thinking of Bigelow structures, given Phobos gravity means I'd weigh about 2oz, and rigid stuff is not really needed. Clip on cables or inflatable tunnels for transit. Wiki says Phobos may be covered by up to 100m of regolith, which would make the whole idea moot anyway. https://en.wikipe...s_(moon)

Apr 05, 2017
@Captain
"The nuclear cave formed by the Gnome event--3 kilotons not 3 megatons or 3 gigatons made a cavern 170 feet across 90 feet high." https://en.wikipe...ct_Gnome
That surprised me. And it's a damn sight easier to drill a drop shaft and drop a bomb than to excavate a cavern.
But, this is all speculation, blue (heh) skying fun :)
(And remarkably free of cranks \o/ )

Apr 05, 2017
@TopCat22 (loved that cartoon :)
Just noticed this;
"should be able origami such a device to fit into the cone end of a Saturn 5.
To put it simply, the Saturn 5 blueprints are lost, we cannot rebuild it :(
https://www.quora...et-today

Apr 05, 2017
And it's a damn sight easier to drill a drop shaft and drop a bomb than to excavate a cavern
@ZergSurfer
not so sure about that one...

my thinking:
- drilling the drop shaft would require boots-on-the-ground drilling crew

excavation wouldn't necessarily need humans on the planet at all
-they can use remote devices with topical mining methods to remove dirt, then used the same excavated dirt as mass for shielding once a structure was set up in said hole

considering that alone i think building underground would be cheaper using remote or drones than nukes

however - if there is a way to make deep mine shafts without having a drilling team on the planet, then the above is completely reversed and it would be easier/cheaper to bore a shaft, drop a nuke and wait for the contractors to get off coffee break to put in the plumbing [jk]

Apr 06, 2017
Heh, we're talking at cross purposes, you're talking about Mars, I'm talking about Phobos :)
Yep, on Mars a semi-conventional approach would be best, remote controlled machinery. But where to control it from? Mars orbit, in a balloon in the moon :)
Hmm, as for blowing a bubble in Mars, a bunker buster might do...
https://en.wikipe...r_buster

Apr 07, 2017
Wiki says Phobos may be covered by up to 100m of regolith, which would make the whole idea moot anyway.

With regolith I'd favor the NASA 'scrape and print' approach. You might even just print a Tsiolkovsky spinning wheel, spin it up and launch it off of Phobos.

Apr 07, 2017
Heh, we're talking at cross purposes, you're talking about Mars, I'm talking about Phobos
@zerg
LOL

whoopsie

.

Wiki says Phobos may be covered by up to 100m of regolith, which would make the whole idea moot anyway.

With regolith I'd favor the NASA 'scrape and print' approach. You might even just print a Tsiolkovsky spinning wheel, spin it up and launch it off of Phobos.
@AA_P
i like this idea... *if* said printing method is stable when it's spun up

my big question is: why aren't we testing this now?
artificial gravity with a "Tsiolkovsky spinning wheel"