Could Interstellar Blimps Put Humans on Venus? NASA Says It's Possible
While there are still various plans underway to get human-made tech and eventually humans to set up shop on Mars, some aerospace engineers at NASA are looking toward the stars in a different direction: Venus.
According to NBC News, engineers at NASA's Langley Research Center have developed a plan that would involve building blimp-like vessels capable of carrying people to Earth's other neighbor, Venus.
High-Altitude Venus Operational Concept (HAVOC) is a project developed by the Space Mission Analysis Branch (SMAB).
According to SMAB, while the lower atmosphere of Venus is "one of the hottest places in the solar system" due to the greenhouse effect caused by thick clouds of sulfuric acid, the pressure, density, gravity, and radiation protection of the upper atmosphere is similar to the surface of Earth.
The HAVOC blimps would fly to the planet and stay in that zone instead of attempting to land like a launched rocket.
"A lighter-than-air vehicle could carry either a host of instruments and probes or a habitat and ascent vehicle for a crew of two astronauts to explore Venus for up to a month," SMAB wrote in a statement.
"Such a mission would require less time to complete than a crewed Mars mission."
"It opens up a strange, exciting, and even slightly terrifying way to live," Langley mission analyst Chris Jones told NBC News. "It would be a challenging environment, but one that would bring opportunities we can't even imagine."
It would also be a challenge getting HAVOC to Venus in the first place.
The mission would require two launches: one for craft carrying the crew, and the other for a cargo ship carrying the folded airship.
After the 100 day journey, the two crafts would meet, connect, fall into Venus' orbit at around 16,000MPH, deploy a parachute, and then open and inflate the airship with helium canisters.
HAVOC and its crew would stay in the upper atmosphere, collecting data and studying Venus for 30 days, before beginning a longer (300 days) journey back to Earth.
So how long before engineers can get HAVOC off the ground?
According to Chris Jones, it's going to be a while.
"The technologies for entry, descent, and inflation, especially at the scales needed for this mission, would require significant advances over state-of-the-art capabilities," he said.
So we're talking decades from now, but there is the possibility that smaller versions of HAVOC will be used for un-manned missions in the more immediate future.