Venus Cloud Cities

06 Apr 2018

OSR blog post

Imagine standing on a porch looking out across the way and below you float massive clouds. You can see neighboring cities rising high above the clouds and spacecraft flying by. Scientists believe that one day this may happen on the planet, Venus. Read on to learn more about the cloud cities of Venus.

When scientists and astronomers talk about visiting other planets to colonize they often refer to Mars. Private companies and universities spend millions of dollars trying to figure out how to grow food, breathe and acquire water on the red planet. They hope to one day have thousands of people living there. Unfortunately, there still exists the problem of the red planet’s low gravity. When humans experience low gravity their bone mass rapidly declines.

According to NASA astronauts on the International Space Station lose significant bone mass during orbit.

“The proximal femoral bone loses 1.5 percent of its mass per month, or roughly 10 percent over a six-month stay in space, with the recovery after returning to Earth taking at least three or four years.”

The question remains how people will live for years on Mars without collapsing. Currently, the ISS astronauts work out for 2.5 hours a day to help maintain bone mass. Venus offers an alternative for colonization because it has gravity closer to that of Earth.

Colonizing Venus

Venus has several advantages over Mars when it comes to colonization. The atmosphere can protect people from harmful radiation, it takes less time to get there, and the gravity is closer to Earth. NASA has a program called High Altitude Venus Operation Concept (HAVOC) that may someday become a reality.

The HAVOC program plans to have crewed missions using spacecraft similar to blimps for the research and development of future colonization. Watch this short video to learn more.

Phases of HAVOC

For NASA to put crewed ships floating above the surface, they need to complete several stages involving advanced technology.

  • Phase 1- a robotic exploration of the Venusian atmosphere using an unmanned, 102 ft (31 meters) airship.
  • Part 2- Two astronauts would spend 30 days in orbit around Venus.
  • Phase 3 & 4- Two crewmembers would cruise through the skies of Venus in a 423 ft. (129m) airship for 30 days and then one year.
  • Phase 5- Permanent settlement with the establishment of floating cities.

HAVOC’s solar-powered airships would fly at an altitude 30 miles above the surface. The large solar panels on the balloon would collect 40 percent more solar energy than Earth collects on its surface. This collection of solar power would eliminate the massive amounts of fuel needed to keep other types of spacecraft afloat. Similar to a regular blimp the vehicle would have propellers to drive it while astronauts conduct research and tests. The good news here is that they would not have to worry about losing bone mass during exploration.

At the completion of each mission, a rocket would launch the crew back into orbit. Getting back to Venus orbit from the airships involves quite a challenge. Venus’ gravity is similar to that of Earth, so a large, powerful rocket would be required to reach the rendezvous craft circling the planet. Once in orbit, the astronauts would rendezvous with a spacecraft that would take them back to Earth.

As concepts and technology develop research scientists believe that the Venus HAVOC mission may acquire funding. One day the citizens of Earth may visit the cloud cities on Venus and travel back and forth between the planets.