Thursday, February 26, 2015

Bubble Colony

Now that we’ve visited the moon a few times, nobody is talking about setting up a moonbase. Everybody seems to want to move on to colonizing Mars. But you know what? Venus is a lot closer.
Earth’s orbit is 93,000,000 miles from the sun. Mars’ orbit is 141,600,000 miles from the sun. The closest Mars and Earth can get is about 48,600,000 miles, while the furthest away they get is 234,600,000. Venus is 67,000,000 miles from the sun, so the closest Earth gets to it is 26,000,000, and the furthest away Venus gets is 160,000,000. So yes, it’s about half the distance to get to Venus as it is to get to Mars.
Why is nobody clamoring to colonize Venus?
At first glance, Venus does not seem very welcoming. Oh, sure, it has about the same amount of gravity as Earth, but that’s the only thing that might be called ‘welcoming’. Its atmosphere is carbon dioxide and nitrogen, with clouds of sulfuric acid droplets. There may be trace amounts of H2O and HO in the atmosphere, but don’t expect to go outside without a space suit. The corrosive atmosphere is so dense, no probe that landed on Venus lasted longer than a couple hours. If the acid doesn’t get you, the pressure will. That pressure is the same as being 1.5 miles deep in the ocean. And that’s assuming you don’t land in a volcano, because the surface is highly volcanic.
The atmosphere is the cause of runaway greenhouse effect, and the surface of Venus is about 900°F. Venus rotates backwards, so the sun rises in the west and sets in the east, but it rotates so slowly, a ‘day’ (single rotation) on Venus is 243 Earth days, while it only takes 225 Earth days to complete a circuit around the sun. That would take some getting used to. And despite Venus’ slow rotation, the top lay of clouds whip around it in about 4 Earth days, at speeds of 225 (or more) miles an hour.
Ready to make it your home yet?
There are people considering how it could be done. They don’t see a colony on Venus’ surface, however; they envision an enclosed ‘station’ that floats 30 miles above Venus’ surface, where the pressure is about the same as sea level on Earth. The temperature would be about 160°F, but that would be relatively easy to deal with. And being below that top layer of clouds, it might be pushed around the globe, but not at hurricane speeds.
That doesn’t sound so bad. Maybe they could devise a way to grow plants on the outside walls to change some of the carbon dioxide into oxygen. If enough of that happened, the greenhouse effect could start to calm down, the temperature might lower, and those racing high-level winds would slow down. Who knows, maybe it would be possible to establish a base on Venus’ surface... in a few millennia.

Ready to ship out yet? Or are you waiting for the ship to Europa?

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