Terraforming Mars is already on our radar, so besides the crushing atmosphere, toxic clouds of carbon dioxide and sulfuric acid, and temperatures that would incinerate a human on contact, what’s to get in the way of us making Venus habitable?
This may sound like the seventh circle of hell in Dante’s Inferno, but both NASA and visionaries like Elon Musk can somehow see through that lethal haze of clouds. Imagine Venus wouldn’t kill you for just a moment. You’ll realize that it is actually (gasp) a terrestrial planet strikingly similar to Earth in size, mass and gravity that is only a five-month trip compared to the 9 months you’d have to spend cramped in a spaceship to touch down on Mars.
There may be no escaping an atmosphere that has more in common with Mordor than Earth, but get to around 30 miles above the surface, and both the atmosphere and atmospheric pressure seem to morph into something close to that of our own planet.
NASA is really into the idea of floating colonies. Its HAVOC (High Altitude Venus Operational Concept) proposition sees astronauts zooming through the atmosphere at 4,500 mph in a high-tech aeroshell over a folded airship. Once the aeroshell falls away, they will be living—and actually staying alive—in that airship, which would take advantage of all the CO2 in Venus’ atmosphere to float.
Venus obviously needs air conditioning, which spawned the idea of using a massive sun blocker to cool it down. A sunshade mirror positioned between Earth and Venus would turn down the temperature and block solar winds. It isn’t actual A/C, but it’s something when you’re dealing with highs of 864 degrees Fahrenheit.
So which planet is worth the unearthly amount of money pulling off such a venture is going to take, Venus or Mars?
Mars really is the opposite of Venus in more than just mythology and that infamous series of ‘90s books. Where Venus burns, Mars freezes. Temperatures average -80 degrees Fahrenheit on a bleak red landscape which has close to zero atmosphere from being blasted by solar radiation for billions of years. Besides the unbreathable air, it is similar in size and structure to Earth, and even has a similar amount of water (think ice caps and that newly discovered subsurface lake).
Some think that blasting the Martian atmosphere with ammonia and hydrocarbons would make it more livable. Of course, Elon Musk had to come up with the even wilder idea of dropping thermonuclear bombs on its polar ice caps to melt them. This would not only create possible rivers and lakes on the barren surface but possibly release enough carbon dioxide to thicken the atmosphere.
While terraforming anything isn’t going to happen soon, it isn’t impossible to imagine Earthlings eventually turning into Martians and Venusians.