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Space Science

Floating Cities On Venus 501

Posted by Soulskill
from the brain-candy dept.
Geoffrey.landis writes "Some of you may have heard me talk about colonizing Venus. Well, for those who haven't, Universe Today is running story about floating cities on Venus. It's a reasonable alternative for space colonies — after all, the atmosphere of Venus (at about 50 km) is the most Earth-like environment in the solar system (other than Earth, of course). '50 km above the surface, Venus has air pressure of approximately 1 bar and temperatures in the 0C-50C range, a quite comfortable environment for humans. Humans wouldn't require pressurized suits when outside, but it wouldn't quite be a shirtsleeves environment. We'd need air to breathe and protection from the sulfuric acid in the atmosphere.'"
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Floating Cities On Venus

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  • by Mesa MIke (1193721) on Monday July 21, 2008 @11:59PM (#24284261) Homepage

    Just move closer to the Sun.

    • by Amorymeltzer (1213818) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @12:40AM (#24284611)

      Not to take the bait, but Venus [wikipedia.org] is a lot hotter than Mercury [wikipedia.org]. The all-important albedo can have a much bigger impact on temperature than distance!

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Vectronic (1221470)

        Yeah, my libito does weird things to.

      • by leftie (667677) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @01:32AM (#24284969)

        ...You put de Lime in de Venus and She drink it all up
        You put de Lime in de Venus and it stop de Global Warming.

        Doctor...

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Not to take the bait, but Venus is a lot hotter than Mercury.

        Surface temperatures yes, but is the temperature 50 km above the surface of Venus hotter than the temperature 50 km above the surface of Mercury?

        The all-important albedo can have a much bigger impact on temperature than distance!

        I doubt albedo is all-important in this instance. For a start Venus has a far higher albedo than Mercury, which would make it cooler, no? What is all-important is the composition of Venus' atmosphere, which is largely

        • by spazdor (902907) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @03:19AM (#24285611)

          but is the temperature 50 km above the surface of Venus hotter than the temperature 50 km above the surface of Mercury?

          Probably. I can't imagine Mercury having much of an atmosphere at all above 50km.

        • by bytesex (112972) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @04:59AM (#24286081) Homepage

          Couldn't one create a layer of floating trees then, at 50 km above the surface ? All you'd need is a (admittedly very large) grid to walk/root on. The trees would slowly convert all the CO2 to oxygen. How's the sunlight at 50 km above Venus ?

          • by MindKata (957167) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @06:18AM (#24286601) Journal
            "floating trees to convert all the CO2 to oxygen"

            You would need to develop a way to filter out the acids but trees on their own, don't seem a likely way to remove that much CO2. However I think you are on to something about finding a way to deal with its CO2. One solution to Venus maybe to engineer a way to deal with its overall chemistry rather than trying to endure its current state. The planet is in some ways similar to Earth, but would require some awesome advances in technology, not least terraforming to alter its chemical composition.

            Maybe in the distant future, humans could combine billions of tonnes of lime with an artificially created seawater like solution and then bombard/rain the planet with it, over the course of a few centuries. (Its an idea thats been suggested to deal with CO2 on earth ... http://www.physorg.com/news135820173.html [physorg.com]). It would only be a partial solution as its more complex than just CO2, but its a step in the right direction.

            Its engineering way beyond anything we could do I guess for many centuries, but its theoretically possible to deal with the CO2, plus it would give us small ocean like lakes over time. Plus once there are more favorable conditions for some life on the surface, then I think plant life, like your ideas about trees, would then add to the process of terraforming the planet. It would be an awesome engineering project.
            • by RsG (809189) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @08:56AM (#24287887)

              Actually, I wouldn't list Venusian chemistry as the primary barrier to terraforming. Yeah, there's acid and CO2 out the ying-yang, but there are other, bigger problems.

              The atmosphere is incredibly dense. Think "deepest trench in the ocean floor" dense. We'd need to get rid of most of it. Burying it seems unwise, if only because all it would take is one major geological upheaval to undo all our hard work.

              That leaves dragging vast amounts of mass up past escape velocity. We'd also need to make sure that the gas didn't subsequently get pulled back onto the surface by the planet's gravity, which means doing more than just bottling it on the surface and decompressing it in orbit. Barring teleportation, artificial black holes, or direct conversion of matter into energy, this problem may be unsolvable.

              On the plus side, any measure that we could use to eliminate the gas could probably also be used to retool the atmospheric chemistry. In other words, if we solve the pressure problem, the problems of acidity and CO2 levels become moot.

              Additionally, Venus' rotational period is too long. Venusian days are on the order of two hundred and forty Earth days. If the surface were otherwise habitable, in terms of chemistry and pressure, you'd still get extremes of temperature during the day/night cycle. The current level of insulation prevents this - the whole planet is blanketed, so that sunlight never reaches the surface, and heat gets spread evenly. A less dense atmosphere would pave the way for scorching days and freezing nights, not unlike Mercury (though admittedly less so if the surface isn't in vacuum).

              Increasing the planet's angular momentum would solve this, but the sheer amount of energy needed is mind-bending. I'm not even sure what spinning up a world would do to it's surface or internal structure. Forget centuries, we'd need a millennium or two to fix this.

              Now, that being said, I've long believed that attempting to predict future technological advances is futile. Past attempts at prediction bear this out. I do not like to say that something is impossible, because it is all too likely I'll be proven wrong in the long run.

              It is entirely possible that at some point in the future, some unknown or presently implausible techniques may exist for dealing with the listed problems. However, there is not a single thing we can do now, or in the foreseeable future, to drastically change Venus into something remotely habitable. If we wanted to live there, my choice would be the way mentioned in TFA, since that at least we could do if we really put our minds to it.

        • CO2? (Score:3, Funny)

          by Shakrai (717556) *

          What is all-important is the composition of Venus' atmosphere, which is largely made up of C02 and other greenhouse forcing gases.

          What does CO2 have to do with planetary warming? I thought that was still a theory? ;)

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Ihlosi (895663)

        The all-important albedo can have a much bigger impact on temperature than distance!

        Erm, your statement does not make any sense at all. The albedo of Venus is roughly 65%, Mercury's is below 20%. That alone should make Venus much, much cooler than Mercury, which it isn't.

        In fact, Venus' albedo is high enough that it receives about as much solar heating as Earth (Earth's albedo is roughly half of that of Venus, Venus receives roughly twice as much solar input of Earth) - the only reason that Venus is such a

  • uhh huh (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @12:00AM (#24284263)
    Yes yes, and while we're at it, why don't we get IPv6 rolled out too, hmmmm?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @12:02AM (#24284279)

    Do we know enough about the atmospheric dynamics of Venus? Is there something similar to a jet stream that might catch your city and throw it around?

    • by LaskoVortex (1153471) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @01:23AM (#24284917)

      Do we know enough about the atmospheric dynamics of Venus? Is there something similar to a jet stream

      Yes, Venus has her Quintessential Upper Electroionosphere Enchanted Fluvial (QUEEF) zone. Most people don't think its air you can breath safely, but that mostly comes from old wive's tail. Some think you would be fortunate just to be in the area of an honest-to-god Venus QUEEF zone.

  • One question (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Tubal-Cain (1289912) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @12:03AM (#24284287) Journal

    And our reason for going to Venus is...?

    We can mine the Moon and possibly Mars, but what does Venus offer us? Fuel? I would think it is too hot for mining the surface (robotic miners capable of operating in the heat may not be cost-effective)

    • by HomerJ (11142) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @12:07AM (#24284311)

      Just think of the limericks!

      There once was a man on Venus..

      • by rubycodez (864176) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @12:40AM (#24284607)

        there once was a man upon Venus
        her angry he was the wrong genus
        as a mortal peon
        cursed for an eon
        the goddess to give cunnilingus

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        If you want limericks, colonizing Uranus would be funnier.

      • by OldManAndTheC++ (723450) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @01:30AM (#24284959)

        There once was a man upon Venus
        Who'd originally been born on Minas
        He came a long distance
        With cheery persistence
        But alas! His bride had a ten inch dick

      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @01:46AM (#24285091)

        Why not a song for the rest of us pastafarians! Arrr, maties!

        Aboard the good ship Venus,
        You really should have seen us,
        With a figurehead of a whore in bed,
        And a mast of a phallic penis.

        The captain of the lugger,
        Was known as a filthy bugger,
        Declared unfit to shovel shit,
        From one ship to another.

        The cabin boys name was Chipper,
        A Randy little nipper,
        He made a pass with a broken glass,
        And circumcised the skipper.

        The first mate's name was Morgan,
        By gosh, he was a gorgon,
        From half past eight he played till late,
        Upon the captain's organ

        The captain's wife was Charlotte,
        Born and bred a harlot,
        Her thighs at night were lily white,
        By morning they were scarlet.

        The captain's daughter, Mabel,
        Though young, was fresh and able,
        To fornicate with the second mate,
        Upon the chartroom table.

        The captain's younger daughter,
        Was washed into the water,
        Her plaintive squeals announced that eels,
        Had found her sexual quarter.

        The ship's dog's name was Rover,
        We turned that poor thing over,
        And ground and ground that faithful hound
        From Teneriff to Dover.

        And when we reached our station,
        Through skillful navigation,
        The ship got sunk, in a wave of spunk,
        From too much fornication.

        I am glad that slashdot has a/c

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by jeiler (1106393)

          There was friggin' in the riggin',
          Wankin' in the plankin'
          Masturbatin' in the cratin',
          There was fuck-all else to do!

          A/C is for sissies. :D

      • by Cassander (251642) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @05:45AM (#24286321)

        There once was a man on Venus
        Who decided to play with his penis
        But the sulfuric acid
        Made it far worse than flaccid
        And he was left with no cock for his genius

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by oldspewey (1303305)
        In a giant floating city on Venus,
        there's an aura of sexual free-ness.
        With no effort or money,
        you can orgy with honey,
        or have midgets paint poems on your penis.
    • by mrbluze (1034940) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @12:16AM (#24284407) Journal

      And our reason for going to Venus is...?

      Well.. from the summary:

      We'd need air to breathe and protection from the sulfuric acid in the atmosphere.'"

      Some people might be feeling nostalgic and remember life in down-town Tokyo or New York or something, but just want to live in a new neighbourhood.

    • by RuBLed (995686) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @12:18AM (#24284429)
      Not enough vespene gas.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Colz Grigor (126123)

      Cheap electricity!

      It's got the sulfuric acid, all we need is lead!

      ::Colz Grigor

  • by jschen (1249578) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @12:06AM (#24284301)
    Cool idea, but until we have much more economical rockets, I can't see us sending nearly enough material to Venus to be supporting a manned expedition, much less a semi-permanent settlement.
  • by nizo (81281) * on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @12:07AM (#24284313) Homepage Journal

    We'd need air to breathe and protection from the sulfuric acid in the atmosphere.

    Well, we'd need all that plus the floating cities. Plus a way to get there would be nice, and a regular ferry to keep the supplies like food and such arriving. But aside from all that we are ready to move in.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Guppy06 (410832)

      "Well, we'd need all that plus the floating cities."

      Haven't read TFA, but I've already seen similar ones. Breathable air is buoyant in the venusian atmosphere.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      But aside from all that we are ready to move in.

      Great! I'll need your first and last months rent and as soon as the check clears our company's Venus shuttle service will call you to schedule a pick up time.

    • by Zackbass (457384)

      Don't forget the space bounty hunters. Venus Sickness can be a real pain in the ass too.

  • by thatskinnyguy (1129515) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @12:08AM (#24284323)
    ...that turn to goo in a few months!
  • Only? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Malevolyn (776946) <signedlongint@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @12:09AM (#24284343) Homepage

    We'd need air to breathe and protection from the sulfuric acid in the atmosphere.

    It's so simple!

    Wait a minute...

  • by Brain Damaged Bogan (1006835) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @12:09AM (#24284347)
    they'll betray you and freeze you in kryptonite as soon as the empire comes knocking on their door.
  • Argumentative. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by geckipede (1261408) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @12:10AM (#24284355)
    It is always this way. I've been saying that we should attempt manned missions to Venus using balloons for years, and now that somebody else suggests it I feel compelled to start poking holes in the idea.

    It is quite nice as a there-and-back science mission but for a long term colony it's a terrible environment. The local resources are incredibly difficult to get hold of if you have to send a balloon down to get them, remember that the record for longest lasting machine on the Venusian surface is slightly over an hour.

    The only reason to go there and take humans along is if space travel has become cheap and easy enough that you can do it on a whim.
  • by Harmonious Botch (921977) * on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @12:12AM (#24284371) Homepage Journal

    Rather than try to change planets, it may be easier to genetically engineer people who are resistant to sulfuric acid ( or they may evolve naturally in China if nothing is done about their acid rain which is reaching a pH of 3.5 )

    [ Please, no jokes about acid-resistant Chinese overlords ]

  • So we'd need to... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rakishi (759894) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @12:13AM (#24284383)

    1) Wear suits to protect us from the poisonous atmosphere and lack of oxygen.
    2) Stay under cover to protect us from the various radiation (no magnetic field as I understand it).
    3) Keep a complex life support system functioning in a complex artificial environment where failure means death.

    So how exactly is this different from the moon, mars or even space itself? It actually seems more difficult and worse environment for humans than any of those.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Venus has a magnetic field. It's about 10^-5 that of Earth's but there is one there. If it weren't present, wouldn't the solar winds have stripped the atmosphere from the planet by now?
      • They did (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Moraelin (679338) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @02:49AM (#24285457) Journal

        Venus has a magnetic field. It's about 10^-5 that of Earth's but there is one there. If it weren't present, wouldn't the solar winds have stripped the atmosphere from the planet by now?

        Well, that's actually the point: they did strip it of all hydrogen, for example. The solar winds ionize the atmosphere something fierce and break the molecules all the time. Heavier elements like C, N and O recombine, but H from (H20 or CH4) escaped into space.

        • Re:They did (Score:4, Informative)

          by stereoroid (234317) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @08:57AM (#24287907) Homepage Journal

          they did strip it of all hydrogen, for example

          I don't know if you got that from Wikipedia, but if you did, it's an over-simplification of the linked ESA article [esa.int]. That talks about the solar wind stripping water molecules away before disassociation, not molecular hydrogen.

          H2 molecules don't actually need any extra help to escape the atmospheres of Venus or Earth: even at the low temperatures of the very upper atmospheres of those planets, a statistically significant fraction of the molecules have a velocity that exceeds the escape velocity. Over long periods of time, almost all unbonded H2 simply wanders off in to space. This is something you examine if you take a statistical thermodynamics [wikipedia.org] course; it also explains why the Moon has almost no atmosphere, Mars a very thin atmossphere, and why the "gas giants" hang on to all that gaseous hydrogen and helium.

          Besides, there is still plenty of hydrogen on Venus: in the sulphuric acid (H2SO4) already discussed. 8) Now, how do we convert sulphuric acid to water... is there any Copper on Venus?

  • by HomerJ (11142) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @12:15AM (#24284395)

    I think before we talk about other places, we should probably get the kinks out of everything by putting something on our own moon. A lot of science could be done on a moon base, as well as learning just HOW to put something on another large rock. Lots of reasons why the moon is reasonable:

    1) We can already get to the moon. We've been there already. So there's not real jump in tech needed to get there.

    2) We can get OFF the moon. The big gotcha with any other landing. Go to Mars? Yeah, could probably get there and land now. Getting off is the hard part. Don't have that problem with the moon.

    3) It's speedy to get there. No months of travel. Need to swap people out or something goes horribly wrong--can get there pretty quickly.

    Landing on Mars, or floating cities on Venus sound nice. But I'd like to see something a bit more practical in my lifetime of a moon base. It's possible, but there haven't been any major plans to do it.

    • I think before we talk about other places, we should probably get the kinks out of everything by putting something on our own moon.

      How about building cities that float in the oceans on earth first? We can already go there, and even do go there all the time. We can get back to land just as easily as we can get to the ocean. It's very fast to get there, weeks or hours depending on whether your city is large enough to have an airport. Going to the moon sounds nice, but we should make and follow through on plans to do something more practical first.

    • Getting off is the hard part.

      Actually, getting off could be easier on Mars. (minds out of the gutter, people!)

      In situ propellant materials are definitely available on the moon, but in solid form, and even there the best alternatives look like aluminum with oxygen (hard to turn into a solid rocket) or hydrogen with oxygen (but in rare dirty ice form). So until we're ready to create a moon colony (i.e. with mining and manufacturing/refining equipment) rather than just a moon base, the only way to get off the rock is to do like Apollo did and bring all the rocket fuel you need all the way from Earth.

      On Mars, on the other hand, carbon dioxide is most of the atmosphere - no need for mining equipment to bake O atoms out of rock, just an air filter to pull them in CO2 molecules out of the sky. We've already tested the sort of compact equipment that would let even a small mission turn that into carbon monoxide and oxygen. You can burn those together directly, or if you want higher performance you can bring your own H2 (which is only a small fraction of your total fuel+oxidizer needs by weight) and burn it directly against local oxygen or bulk it up into methane first using local carbon.

      Your other points are all well taken, though. We've made enough flubs in Low Earth Orbit alone that it seems clear that we should practice walking before we run.

  • by ShooterNeo (555040) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @01:02AM (#24284759)

    While possible in theory, I think it is incredibly unlikely that humans will build any kind of colony on other planets. Simply put : the projected technological growth curve suggests that we will have self replicating robots (and possibly artificial intelligence smart enough to control them) within a century.

    Why would we go to the hassle of creating compromise habitats on other planets (moon, mars, the rest) when we could simply place linear accelerators (aka railguns) to launch raw materials into orbit? Self-replicating factories on the moon would mine materials and manufacture more robots and parts. The finished bots as well as raw materials would be launched into orbit, to be used to manufacture gigantic rotating habitats.

    The habitats would be MUCH posh-er than anything that could be made on a planet, with near perfect control of the internal environment.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by zjl56 (935988)
      Why just limit yourself to creating orbiting or shielded habitats when you can just create the real thing? With self-replicating robots you could throw enough material to Venus to simply sequester the huge amount of C02 and pave the way to a human friendly environment.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by coaxial (28297)

      Simply put : the projected technological growth curve suggests that we will have self replicating robots (and possibly artificial intelligence smart enough to control them) within a century.

      Now THAT'S science fantasy!

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by ShooterNeo (555040)

        Go look in the mirror.

        Sentient, self replicating robots exist.

        Go open a history book to 1908. Tell me I'm wrong.

  • by 4D6963 (933028) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @01:39AM (#24285041)

    As many people have pointed out this is obviously infeasible in the foreseeable future (and I believe we're talking at the very least 50 years here), however it may be an interesting idea as a space probe. Technically gets there like a lander probe, except that at some point during the descent after the parachute slowed things down enough the probe would inflate a blimp, and thus float in the atmosphere at tolerable temperatures and pressures.

    That would be good to study the atmosphere and also study the surface a bit closer, but what would be really really neat is if it could be the "aircraft carrier" for a UAV or two specially designed to go fly close to the surface, take pictures, and come back for a refuelling, which would be electrical, the source of energy being the solar panels on the blimp (or "solar paint") during day time (which would last I believe about 120 days). It should work fairly well because the skies must be pretty clear at a 50 km altitude, and a blimp can be pretty large so if its entire surface can be covered in "solar paint".. And during night the whole thing could stay idle.

    Scientifically this would be very interesting as it would allow to study the atmosphere in situ for an extended period of time (several Venus days) on distances (since the blimp would be carried by the winds, but also the UAVs would explore up and down thereby teaching us so much about the atmosphere, its temperatures, pressures, winds, clouds, chemical compositions) and also we would get to see a lot of Venus' geology thanks to the UAV that would fly close enough to the ground. The question would be how hard would it be to conceive an electrical UAV that could fly in such an atmosphere with the chemistry it has under pressures of up to 95 bars and temperatures of up to 500 C? If it's impossible, would there be any chance to have a camera on the end of a 50 km long cable? (the question being I believe how much would such a long cable weight, considered it can't melt at 500 C or be corroded)

  • by ianm.phil (1140173) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @01:49AM (#24285117)
    I think if humans are going to one day seriously consider terraforming other bodies in the solar system (we've already been doing that to our own for about 12,000 yrs) we ought to start long term terraformation on Venus as soon as possible.

    Venus, although nearly identical in gravity, size and distance from the sun to Earth, does not contain any native water and has severe atmospheric issues. Mars, has water and serious atmospheric issues (such as insufficient gravity to retain one) and no magnetic field.

    To successfully transform Venus would require first to construct large scale reflectors to reduce the sunlight reaching Venus thus cooling it down, implement a process to sequester the excess carbon in the atmospher, direct large numbers of comets at Venus to introduce sufficient water and then seed the planet with simple anaerobic biotic life to begin to oxygenate the atmosphere. Of course these are outstanding complex and far-future possibilities, but not impossible so far as I know.

    In the long run (thousands of years or even tens of thousands), I speculate Venus will likely be Earth II to a greater extent that mars will; it may take Venus a bit longer to become habitable, but once it does payoff in quality of environment would be significant. All the more incentive to encourage twin terraforming endeavors rather than simply focus on Mars.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by meringuoid (568297)
      Look up how long a day is on Venus. I've never heard any good proposal for how to terraform that away.
  • by Saffaya (702234) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @02:27AM (#24285325)

    The author, Yukito Kishiro always documents himself a lot before drawing and has the humans on Venus use floating cities in the "Last Order" series of his manga.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_Angel_Alita:_Last_Order [wikipedia.org]

  • At the time you have the technological capabilities to start building cities that float in the atmosphere of Venus, one is probably well into the era of molecular nanotechology. That means one probably already has restrictions on the removal of CO2 from the Earth's atmosphere (don't want to kill all the plants, cyanobacteria, plankton, fish, etc.) and one is well along on stripping the ice-caps from Mars and the atmosphere of Venus of the easily available carbon. This is because carbon availability becomes a limiting resource and of significant concern in the nanotech era.

    Depending upon how much carbon is stripped from the atmosphere of Venus, one doesn't have the hellish temperature problem which exists now and it can be made quite comfortable on the surface. The magnetic field problem and lack of water are more significant problems and one may need to consider a phase of planetary comet bombardment to replenish the water. And unless means are developed to restart core circulation to beef up the magnetic field one is facing the problem of a very dry planet (all water circulating in pipes rather than streams or rivers). Though one could speculate as to whether sufficient particle accelerators could be developed to split the available C or O back into H so one could maintain the atmospheric H2O content even with a solar wind stripping away the H.

    Now, of course if one has the capabilities to play with planets and the solar system as a whole like this, as I discuss in my chapter in "Year Million", then one is also likely to have the resources which can dismantle the whole planet, presumably to contribute to the construction of our solar system's Matrioshka Brain. Now whether to use the material in Venus for this purpose, or whether to turn it into a water world with lots of islands upon which many different evolutionary scenarios are played out (using real matter as the computronium for evolution). [For those of you who don't see this, think hundreds of thousands to millions of independent "Jurassic Park"s] is going to be one of the fierce debates we have later in this century or perhaps the next one.

  • by Tickenest (544722) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @07:28AM (#24287109) Homepage Journal
    We'd need air to breathe and protection from the sulfuric acid in the atmosphere.

    Sulfuric acid...yes, that's quite a pickle, that atmospheric sulfuric acid...gets you every time...might want to think carefully about ways to deal with that one....

  • by WormholeFiend (674934) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @07:49AM (#24287313)

    ...floating cities on the oceans of THIS planet...

  • Hell yes! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sckeener (137243) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @08:57AM (#24287905)

    I'm surprised I haven't seen a copy & paste from a wiki...this is my favorite topic and I frequently refer people to this link:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colonization_of_Venus#Aerostat_habitats_and_floating_cities [wikipedia.org]

    Geoffrey A. Landis has summarized the perceived difficulties in colonizing Venus as being merely from the assumption that a colony would need to be based on the surface of a planet:

    "However, viewed in a different way, the problem with Venus is merely that the ground level is too far below the one atmosphere level. At cloud-top level, Venus is the paradise planet."

    He has proposed aerostat habitats followed by floating cities, based on the concept that breathable air (21:79 Oxygen-Nitrogen mixture) is a lifting gas in the dense Venusian atmosphere, with over 60% of the lifting power that helium has on Earth.[4] In effect, a balloon full of human-breathable air would sustain itself and extra weight (such as a colony) in midair. At an altitude of 50 km above Venusian surface, the environment is the most Earth-like in the solar system - a pressure of approximately 1 bar and temperatures in the 0ÂC-50ÂC range. Because there is not a significant pressure difference between the inside and the outside of the breathable-air balloon, any rips or tears would cause gases to diffuse at normal atmospheric mixing rates, giving time to repair any such damages. In addition, humans would not require pressurized suits when outside, merely air to breathe and a protection from the acidic rain. Alternatively two-part domes could contain a lifting gas like hydrogen or helium (extractable from the atmosphere) to allow a higher mass density[5].

    Cloud-top colonization also offers a way to avoid the issue of slow Venusian rotation. At the top of the clouds the wind speed on Venus reaches up to 95 m/s, circling the planet approximately every four Earth days in a phenomenon known as "super-rotation".[6] Colonies floating in this region could therefore have a much shorter day length by remaining untethered to the ground and moving with the atmosphere. While a space elevator extending to the surface of Venus is impractical due to the slow rotation, constructing a skyhook that extended into the upper atmosphere and rotated at the wind speed would not be difficult compared to constructing a space elevator on Earth.

    Since such colonies would be viable in current Venusian conditions, this allows a dynamic approach to colonization instead of requiring extensive terraforming measures in advance. The main challenge would be using a substance resistant to sulfuric acid to serve as the structure's outer layer; ceramics or metal sulfates could possibly serve in this role.

    Landis has suggested that as more floating cities were built, they could form a solar shield around the planet, and could simultaneously be used to process the atmosphere into a more desirable form. If made from carbon nanotubes (recently fabricated into sheet form) or graphene (a sheet-like carbon allotrope), the major structural materials can be produced using carbon dioxide gathered in situ from the atmosphere. The recently synthesised amorphous carbonia might prove a useful structural material if it can be quenched to STP conditions, perhaps in a mixture with regular silica glass. According to Birch's analysis such colonies and materials would provide an immediate economic return from colonizing Venus, funding further terraforming efforts.

    Some of the difficulties that /. posters have mentioned have been dealt with in the wiki, but there are some others that have not been mentioned that the wiki deals with.

    Personally I think the most difficult aspect would be mining the surface (and that is mentioned in the wiki.) Until we get more data I think this is a pipe dream (that I really want to happen.)

    Speaking as someone t

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