Mars: the first manned mission to another planet. It’s practically a foregone conclusion that we will eventually send man to Mars. Between landing on a comet and launching Orion, it feels like we’ve taken many steps forward in 2014 towards this goal. And, now NASA has announced yet another step forward: they somehow found AWESOME astronaut twins.
Seriously, who the hell has twin boys that both grow up to be astronauts? Well, the Kelly family apparently. Scott and Mark Kelly are identical twins. Who are both astronauts. Except Mark retired. So he’s going to just hang out on Earth, while his brother goes to the International Space Station.
Why? Because weird shit happens when you’re in space. Bone density loss, immune system changes, vision issues – space fog. No, that was not a typo. Astronauts report that feeling mentally sluggish after spending too much time in space. They dub it “space fog”. By monitoring identical twins over a significant period of time NASA will be able to explore the real biological changes that occur during a long-haul space mission. Like travelling to Mars.
But, is Mars still our first choice?
NASA’s Langley Research Center has an alternative proposal: why not go to Venus?
Well, mostly because Venus is a burning hellscape that would kill us all. Seriously, to quote Fraser Cain “Venus is the worst”.
But the people at Langley are super smart. They don’t want to actually wander the burning surface of Venus, they just want to float around above it – kind of like a zepplin tour (no, not the band, like an airship). In fact, they seem to have a very specific vision for their airship: a solar powered, 129 meter ship, called (oh, yeah, I shit you not) HAVOC.
Is there a video of HAVOC that makes you think you are watching a giant hollywood blockbuster of awesome? Why YES, THERE IS!
I officially have the biggest geek crush on the Langley Research Center.
Oh, and internet machine: I will pay good money to interview the trickster who came up with that excellent acronym. We here at Bitter SciTech love a good science pun more than pretty much anything else in the entire world.
Anywho, the High Altitude Venus Operational Concept would be chock full of solar panels, which would work out super better for Venus since it gets 240 times more solar power than Mars. Also, Venus is closer to us than Mars. It would save the astronauts about 60 days if they went to Venus. Okay, so 60 days doesn’t sound that convincing, but hey, food in space is really freakin’ complicated.
So why not go to Venus? Well, it seems like we’re propelling pretty hard down the road to Mars and nobody wants to derail that plan. But, maybe Venus could be a stepping stone to Mars? You know, one we don’t actually step on because burning hellscape. In an interview with IEEE Dale Arney and Chris Jones, from the Space Mission Analysis Branch of NASA’s Systems Analysis and Concepts Directorate explained,
[blockquote type=”left, center, right”]“Venus has value as a destination in and of itself for exploration and colonization,” says Jones. “But it’s also complementary to current Mars plans.…There are things that you would need to do for a Mars mission, but we see a little easier path through Venus.” For example, in order to get to Mars, or anywhere else outside of the Earth-moon system, we’ll need experience with long-duration habitats, aerobraking and aerocapture, and carbon dioxide processing, among many other things. Arney continues: “If you did Venus first, you could get a leg up on advancing those technologies and those capabilities ahead of doing a human-scale Mars mission. It’s a chance to do a practice run, if you will, of going to Mars.”[/blockquote]
Do you see that little word in the quote…colonization…. You know what that means? CLOUD CITY. JUST LIKE STAR TREK. I’m sold. Forget Mars. Let’s go to Venus.
For a more, shall we say, tempered version of this discussion, please read the excellent article in IEEE Spectrum.
For more information on the awesome astronaut twins see NASA News.
Featured image courtesy of NASA