The atmosphere of Venus may be a destination in the near future, according to concepts on NASA’s Systems Analysis and Concepts Directorate or SACD. Exploring the atmosphere of this planet would be a very interesting opportunity to both further scientific study and expand our footsteps.
At 50 km, or 31 miles, the atmosphere of Venus has similar pressure, density, gravity, and protection from UV radiation in relation to the surface of Earth.
According to the SACD website, a lighter-than-air vehicle, such as a blimp, could carry a host of instruments and probes used to do research, or somewhere for astronauts to live for about a month at a time while exploring the surface of Venus. And this mission would take less time to carry out than one to Mars based on the like-ness to Earth at that altitude.
The development of a program to explore Venus was created after a recent NASA study: High Altitude Venus Operational Concept (HAVOC). This concept has a focus on the mission architecture and vehicle concept for a month long mission into the atmosphere of Venus.
But of course there’s challenges to this idea. Technical challenges for the mission are currently abundant, we just don’t have everything in place yet. Some key questions keeping us from hopping in a spaceship include: How will the ship and crew get to the planet? How would we perform the aerocapture maneuvers at Venus and Earth? How would we insert and inflate an airship in Venus’s atmosphere? And how would we protect the solar panels and structures from the sulfuric acid in the atmosphere?
But time will ultimately tell. As we grow more and more open to government funded science, the more opportunity and research we will have. NASA may soon have blimps in the skies of Venus.