OT plan - manned airships on Venus - like Clarke's "Meet - Medusa"
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2018-06-06 15:44:04 UTC

(Going to the cite, lets one view pictures etc.)

NASA has a plan to let humans soar above the clouds on Venus
Proposed "HAVOC" mission would send a blimp-like airship to Earth's
nearest neighbor.
by Corey S. Powell / Jun.05.2018 / 7:53 AM ET
Image: HAVOC
High Altitude Venus Operational Concept (HAVOC)NASA
For more than half a century, America's human space program has
flip-flopped between two long-range goals: establishing a base on the
moon or going deep and sending astronauts to Mars.

But a group of aerospace engineers at NASA's Langley Research Center in
Hampton, Virginia has made a persuasive pitch for an unexpected third
option: Venus.

The team has sketched out plans for and conducted small-scale tests of a
blimp-like airship that would ferry a crew of two on a month-long
expedition above the Venusian cloudtops. Their High-Altitude Venus
Operational Concept (HAVOC) would culminate in the building of what the
engineers describe as an aerial colony for "long-term atmospheric
habitation and colonization" of the second rock from the sun.

Renderings of the HAVOC airship are reminiscent of Lando Calrissian's
fantastical Cloud City from the "Star Wars" movies, but the NASA
engineers are serious about their plan.

Image: HAVOCHigh Altitude Venus Operational Concept (HAVOC)NASA
They point out that Venus is the closest, most accessible planet in the
solar system. It's nearly identical to Earth in size and mass, making it
an excellent place to learn about the prospects for life on other
Earth-like worlds. And as Chris Jones, a mission analyst at NASA Langley
and leader of the HAVOC team, says, "The atmosphere of Venus is one of
the more hospitable locations in space."

That statement might raise a few eyebrows. Day or night, temperatures on
Venus hover around 850 degrees Fahrenheit, and the atmospheric pressure
at the surface is a crushing 1,300 pounds per square inch. The silvery
clouds that enshroud the planet consist of sulfuric acid. "Even in the
[SyFy television] show "The Expanse," Venus is considered inhospitable
enough to use as a dumping ground for an alien substance!" jokes Robert
Grimm, a Venus expert at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder,

But go 30 miles above the Venusian surface, and the story is very
different. Temperatures are a more tolerable 170 degrees F, and
atmospheric pressure is similar to that on Earth. The corrosive clouds
are tucked safely below, so there's ample solar energy shining down from

This is the sweet spot where HAVOC would set up the floating basecamp.
"It opens up a strange, exciting, and even slightly terrifying way to
live," Jones says. "It would be a challenging environment, but one that
would bring opportunities we can't even imagine."

HAVOC would be unlike any space mission ever attempted. It would begin
with two launches to Venus. One spacecraft would be for the crew. The
other would be a robotic cargo ship carrying the airship, which would be
folded up inside a 100-foot-long capsule.

The voyage from Earth to Venus would take about 100 days using a
powerful rocket like NASA's upcoming Space Launch System. That's about
half as long as it takes to go to Mars — one big advantage of choosing
Venus over the Red Planet. On arrival, both HAVOC spacecraft would enter
Venus orbit. The crew would rendezvous with the cargo capsule, the
astronauts would strap in, and the real drama would begin.

Falling from orbit, the capsule would plunge into Venus's atmosphere at
16,000 mph. White-hot atmospheric friction and a huge supersonic
parachute would slow things to a more manageable 90 mph. At that point,
the capsule would jettison its outer shell, the airship would unfurl,
and canisters of helium would inflate it to a volume of 2.7 million
cubic feet. Fully inflated, the airship would be nearly three times the
size of a Boeing 747.

Image: HAVOCSketch of a floating Venus airshipCarter Emmert

After all that drama, life on HAVOC would be strangely calm. The airship
would settle into the Venusian jetstream, bobbing along 32 miles above
ground under blue skies. "The gravity would be similar to Earth's, and
the thick atmosphere would provide radiation shielding, helping to
mitigate two of the biggest health fears with space travel," Jones says.

At the conclusion of the 30-day mission, the capsule would detach from
the airship and transport the astronauts back into orbit around Venus.
There they would rendezvous with the main crew vessel, which would take
them back to Earth. The return trip would take a bit longer — about 300
days — because the rocket would have to fight the sun's gravitational
attraction. But at a total length of about 450 days, the mission would
be significantly shorter than a mission to Mars, which could take a full
two years.

The scientific payoff from going to Venus could be huge, Jones says,
because some fabulous secrets might lie below its hellish surface.
Billions of years ago, when the sun was dimmer and cooler than it is
today, Earth's inner neighbor may have had abundant water and a mild

"Venus may have been the first habitable planet in the solar system,"
Grimm says. "It records both the origin and fate of habitable planets.
This divergence will help us understand where in the universe an
Earth-sized planet means an Earth-like planet."

David Grinspoon, an astrobiologist at the Planetary Science Institute in
Tucson, Arizona, goes further. He says that recent climate models
suggest Venus may have been a hospitable world for more than half of its
history. "Everything we know says that life should have had time to get
started there," he says. "If Venus didn't have life, then we really
don't understand why Earth has life."

It's even possible that living organisms might yet exist in the mild
atmospheric zone that HAVOC would visit. The chemistry there is harsh,
but microbes on Earth can tolerate acidic, sulfur-rich conditions.
Grinspoon is especially intrigued by Venusian clouds that sometimes
display unexplained markings of dark, ultraviolet-absorbing particles.
"Could it be some kind of biosphere?" he asks.

Jones is under no illusions that HAVOC will happen anytime soon. "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 says. Sending humans to Venus might
not happen for decades, "but we envisioned that there would be
smaller-scale versions of the airship used for robotic missions prior to
the crewed mission."

One little robot, Japan's Akatsuki probe, is studying Venus right now.
And a NASA concept called Venus Bridge would use low-budget "smallsats"
to bring the U.S. back to Venus quickly. From there, a joint
U.S.-Russian project called Venera D could begin scanning the Venusian
atmosphere and placing a lander on the surface by the mid-2020s.
Additionally, the European Space Agency's EnVision mission may be
sending back high-resolution radar maps of the Venusian surface a few
years after that.

These are small steps, but essential ones to the eventual Lando-like
grandeur of HAVOC.

To Grinspoon, HAVOC offers a vision not just of expansive human space
exploration but of the astonishing discoveries that may await us on the
planet right next door. "In the early days of space exploration, people
expected Venus to be a tropical paradise and were disappointed when it
wasn't," he says. "Now we know that the two most likely places in the
solar system to have developed surface-ocean life are Earth and Venus.
Mars is a distant third."

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Peter Trei
2018-06-06 22:07:53 UTC
Post by a425couple
(Going to the cite, lets one view pictures etc.)
NASA has a plan to let humans soar above the clouds on Venus
Proposed "HAVOC" mission would send a blimp-like airship to Earth's
nearest neighbor.
So, we're following in the footsteps of the Soviet Union, yet again.
From 1985: