The surface of Venus is violent, tumultuous and full of volcanoes, earthquakes and lightening.  We could never understand the magnitude of what a planet like Venus experiences.  In fact, no probes or satellites have been able to survive entering the atmosphere. NASA’s new idea is to create long-term missions to Venus floating just above the atmosphere and avoiding the wild surface of our sister planet.

HAVOC (High Altitude Venus Operational Concept), is a proposed space balloon that would sit in a hospitable part of the atmosphere of Venus. At 50 km, astronauts would live in conditions that had 85% of Earth’s gravity and a temperature of below 80 degrees Celsius.  Although this seems inhospitable for earthlings, NASA scientists figure super-materials could handle the extreme conditions. 

Venus is closer to Earth by half that of Mars and its thick atmosphere would be capable of protecting astronauts from radiation of the sun.  Solar power would also be a real option.  Because it’s so close to Earth, NASA figures it is more viable sending people to Venus then trekking twice the distance to Mars.

There would be five stages of the plan: First, robotic exploration; second, a one month orbiting mission; third, a one month atmospheric mission; fourth, a one year atmospheric mission and last, a semi-permanent installation with a manned crew that rotates.

Although this mission appears to have less problems than manning a mission to Mars, there are a few negatives as well.  First of all, little is known about Venus and so the benefits of exploring this planet are on shaky ground.  NASA already figures Mars will bring back positive results; however, Venus has never been considered before now. 

As well, Mars has already had landings by robotic machines but Venus has never been explored.  In fact, we haven’t even put a permanent base over our own sky.

However, that being said, the plan is for HAVOC to inflate vehicles just after entering Venus’ atmosphere.  Travelling from 7,500 metres per second to nearly zero, the vehicle would then gently float on the surface of the carbon dioxide surface.  Has this been tested?  Hardly!  We will have to see if this becomes a feasible reality in the future of NASA. 

[Image via theatlantic]