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  • Writer's pictureGuillermo Sohnlein

Destination Venus - Gravity, Gravity, Gravity

Updated: Mar 6, 2023

At the Humans2Venus Foundation, by far the most common question we get is “Why Venus?” The simple one-word answer: GRAVITY.


CHILDHOOD DREAMS


When I was 11 years old, I had a recurring dream that I was the commander of the first human community on Mars. I have spent the more than four decades since then doing whatever I could to help humanity become a multi-planet species.


Despite those early childhood dreams, I was not particularly focused on Mars as the ultimate destination. It would be just fine by me if we established our permanent off-world presence on the Moon, on Mars, or even in orbit or free-flying communities. Better yet, how about all of them?


THE SEARCH FOR EARTH-LIKE GRAVITY


However, when it came to imagining a permanent home for humanity away from Earth, one challenge always bothered me.


I am not an engineer or a scientist, but I have ultimate faith in the abilities of both. Therefore, I always figured that they would be able to overcome the myriad challenges facing us in the extreme environment of space: radiation, temperature, pressure, food, water, breathable air, etc. All of these could be overcome.


But not gravity.


Other than potentially building an O’Neill cylinder or a Stanford torus, it did not look like we would ever be able to offset the long-term effects of less-than-1G gravity on the surface of the Moon (0.17G) or Mars (0.38G). Worse, the medical community did not really know whether homo sapiens would be able to reproduce in these low-gravity environments, from conception to gestation to birth to genetic defects and mutations.


For all we knew, our species could potentially get all the way to Mars and then die out within a single generation.


To me, it became clear that humanity needed to find a 1G destination if we had any hope of becoming a multi-planet species.


50KM ABOVE THE SURFACE OF VENUS


A few years ago, I came across a report summarizing the data collected by Russia’s Venera missions to Venus. It turned out that 50km above the Venusian surface measured at 1G of gravity! Eureka!


Even better, at that altitude the air pressure measured roughly 1ATM, the temperature was relatively tolerable (30C-50C), and the atmosphere provided sufficient radiation protection (despite Venus being closer to the Sun and not having a magnetic field).


Of course, the downsides were the CO2-heavy atmosphere and the clouds made of sulfuric acid. Then again, we already had technologies here on Earth to offset both.


I was stunned. After almost 20 years in the space industry, this was the first time I had heard about Venus’ atmosphere being a potential destination for humanity. Why hadn’t anyone explored this possibility?


NASA HAVOC


It turned out that NASA had, in fact, started seriously exploring the possibility of putting humans in the Venusian atmosphere with its “High Altitude Venus Operational Concept” (or “HAVOC”). The potential for a permanent human presence in the Venusian atmosphere seemed viable, even if it also seemed to elicit sci-fi comparisons with the “floating cities” seen in Star Wars and other films.


I could fully understand the political and economic realities that prevented NASA from adopting a “Moon, Venus, Mars, and Beyond” vision instead of its current “Moon, Mars, and Beyond” long-term plan. However, a *private* group could certainly advocate such a vision.


And so the Humans2Venus Foundation was born.

Source: HAVOC image from NASA Langley Research Center


ADDING VENUS INTO THE MIX


Are we advocating that we abandon all other efforts in favor of focusing on Venus? Certainly not!


If humanity is to become a multi-planet species, then we must become a true “multi-planet” species and not merely a “two-planet” species. We need as many options as possible, so we should explore ALL possibilities.


Since Venus and Mars are the two closest planets to Earth, we should fully explore BOTH options. And these two should be in addition to orbiting and free-flying stations, as well as facilities on the Moon.


The Humans2Venus Foundation will do whatever we can to advocate as much science, exploration, education, and technology development as possible toward Venus. We welcome any and all supporters and global partners.


Ad astra,


Guillermo Sohnlein

Founder, Humans2Venus Foundation

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