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OceanGate Co-Founder Wants to Send You to a Floating City in Venus by 2050
If the former co-founder of OceanGate gets his way, we'll have a thousand people living on Venus by 2050.
Provided we manage to stick around for a few more centuries, it feels almost inevitable that we'll eventually send some of our numbers to populate other worlds. How that happens isn't wholly clear.
In the animated sci-fi series Terra Formers (streaming now on Peacock!), a group of 21st century scientists initiate a terraforming effort on Mars by sending genetically modified algae and cockroaches. The thinking goes that over the next few centuries, they'll jumpstart production of a thicker atmosphere and transform the planet into a habitable world. Instead, when the first humans show up, they are met by giant, murderous insects.
Terraforming a world, even setting up shop somewhere without changing it, will be no easy task even without modified killer bugs. But why should that stop anyone, right? If Guillermo Söhnlein, former co-founder of OceanGate, gets his way, we'll have a thousand people living on Venus by 2050. Oh boy.
A Thousand People on Venus by 2050
OceanGate was recently in headlines following the disappearance of their Titan submersible near the Titanic wreckage. Authorities later confirmed the Titan imploded, killing five passengers including co-founder Stockton Rush. Söhnlein left OceanGate back in 2013, but retained a minority stake in the company.
Söhnlein no longer has his sights set on the ocean and is, instead, looking to the stars for the next big adventure. He wants to establish a floating human colony in the skies of Venus, by the middle of the century.
Venus isn't exactly at the top of our human exploration and colonization list. It's similar to Earth in terms of size and mass, but its environment couldn't be more dissimilar. Despite being the second-closest planet to the Sun, it is the hottest world in the solar system by a long shot. The dense atmosphere of Venus, thick with greenhouse gases, grabs hold of solar radiation and doesn't let go. Surface temperatures reach a sweltering 475 Celsius (900 Fahrenheit) year-round.
However, it's possible there's a narrow band in the upper atmosphere where the temperature and pressure are a little more comfortable. That's where Söhnlein wants to set up his Humans2Venus colony, in a floating city 30 miles above the surface of Venus. And he's committed to the idea, even in the face of OceanGate's tragic failure.
"Forget OceanGate. Forget Titan. Forget Stockton. Humanity could be on the verge of a big breakthrough and not take advantage of it because we, as a species, are gonna get shut down and pushed back into the status quo," he said, in an interview with Business Insider.
Floating Cities in the Venusian Sky
Söhnlein isn't the first person to suggest something like this. Plans exist for uncrewed floating probes and crewed floating Venusian aircraft. Engineers from NASA Langley's Space Mission Analysis developed a similar floating station of their own, dubbed the High Altitude Venus Operational Concept (HAVOC).
HAVOC would deploy a craft to Venus orbit, descend into the atmosphere with a parachute, and deploy a large balloon covered with solar panels. Underneath, a crew compartment is held aloft in the dense Venusian atmosphere. When finished, the crew compartment would detach, blast off, and rendezvous with the return ship in orbit.
The major difference between Humans2Venus and other similar proposed crafts is the timeline. Getting even one person to Venus in two-and-a-half decades would be a miracle, let alone a thousand. Söhnlein wants to push boundaries and there's nothing wrong with that, but the timeline is worrisome.
You can do something safely and cheaply, but not quickly; safely and quickly, but not cheaply; or cheaply and quickly, but not safely. If there's any ship headed to Venus by 2050, we're not sure we'd want to be on it.