Friday, November 25, 2005

Venus & Mars

Venus and Sun

Just after sunset today, the sky was clear, and Venus was incredibly bright - I thought I was seeing landing lights for a business jet climbing out of Worcester Airport. Mars was already quite bright too.

I've read and thought a lot about colonizing Mars, but until I saw a reference to this NASA paper by Geoffrey A. Landis in a post on the Orbiter "real space" forum, I would have thought that colonizing Venus would be impossible without massive terraforming to modify its atmosphere (Carl Sagan suggested seeding the clouds of Venus with genetically modified algae to remove CO2 and eventually reduce the severe greenhouse effect). In Landis' paper, the idea is to avoid the brutal surface temperature and pressure by setting up floating cities in the clouds, about 50 km above the surface, where the atmospheric pressure and temperature are about Earth standard, and gravity is about 0.9 G. This is not something we could do next week, but the paper suggests that it would be physically possible and would offer some interesting advantages.

The picture is an Orbiter shot of Venus just after sunrise.

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