×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

ESA to Send Spacecraft to Venus

ScuttleMonkey posted about 8 years ago | from the just-being-neighborly dept.

195

teeto writes to tell us The International Herald Tribune is reporting that the European Space Agency is planning to send a spacecraft to peer at Venus." From the article: "If the robot craft pulls off the complex maneuver of slowing down enough to swing into orbit, scientists hope it will help solve the mystery of how the shrouded, churning atmosphere of Venus formed and how it maintains the planet's broiler-like temperatures."

cancel ×
This is a preview of your comment

No Comment Title Entered

Anonymous Coward 1 minute ago

No Comment Entered

195 comments

Didn't you hear? It's GLOBAL WARMING (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15097029)

Venus once had a thriving civilization, much like Earth, but they burned their fossil fuels and ruined their environment. DON'T BE LIKE VENUS!

Re:Didn't you hear? It's GLOBAL WARMING (5, Interesting)

Woldry (928749) | about 8 years ago | (#15097104)

This AC comment seems to have been made in jest, but it got me thinking.

Do we have any way of knowing how long Venus has been a runaway greenhouse? (That phrase, by the way, invokes a really bizarre mental image ... )

Is it conceivable that the climate there went haywire within human history? Given the current pressure, temperature, and chemical composition of the atmosphere on Venus, is there any chance that any indications at all could have survived of a possible former ecosystem there?

Mars is fascinating for what it might have become. Venus is fascinating for what it might have been.

Re:Didn't you hear? It's GLOBAL WARMING (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15097157)

Keep in mind that Venus averages a solar irradiance almost twice that of earth. Any water that would've existed in the planet would have boiled off to the upper atmosphere with the hydrogen getting carried off by the solar wind.

Re:Didn't you hear? It's GLOBAL WARMING (1)

Billly Gates (198444) | about 8 years ago | (#15097160)

I read somewhere that Venus and Earth may have had similiar chemistries when both planets were created.

I know Earth had an atmosphere of Amomnia when it was first created. Perhaps Venus had this and the extreme had broke down the Amonia and combined the elements with sulfur and carbon dioxide to form its hellish atmoshpere?

I wonder if Earth will turn into another Venus when teh sun expands and begins to warm our planet up?

Re:Didn't you hear? It's GLOBAL WARMING (2, Funny)

WormholeFiend (674934) | about 8 years ago | (#15097168)

For an extra alternative view of how Venus was created, you should read Velikovsky's theory... :)

Re:Didn't you hear? It's GLOBAL WARMING (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15097455)

When the sun starts to expand, Earth evaporates.

Re:Didn't you hear? It's GLOBAL WARMING (1)

From A Far Away Land (930780) | about 8 years ago | (#15097188)

Wouldn't it be wild if we'd come to earth hundreds of thousands of years ago from Venus, seeded only by "Adam and Eve" who were a bit like breeding Superman(s), while the Venusian civilization died, and the one on Earth began to rebuild from scratch?

Re:Didn't you hear? It's GLOBAL WARMING (1)

PoiuyTerry (736125) | about 8 years ago | (#15097254)

And we'll probably be heading to Mars next. We'll have to 'ascend to a higher plane' to move on from there, I suspect.

Re:Didn't you hear? It's GLOBAL WARMING (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15097616)

Trying to get to uranus are we? Ya FAG!!!

Re:Didn't you hear? It's GLOBAL WARMING (5, Funny)

DreadfulGrape (398188) | about 8 years ago | (#15097263)

Wouldn't it be wild if we'd come to earth hundreds of thousands of years ago from Venus, seeded only by "Adam and Eve" who were a bit like breeding Superman(s), while the Venusian civilization died, and the one on Earth began to rebuild from scratch?

Wild, dude. BTW, pass that bong to me when you're done with it....

Re:Didn't you hear? It's GLOBAL WARMING (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15097574)

I always knew there was something a little homoerotic about DC Comics. And the Bible.

Earth's own past is gloomy enough to warn us (5, Interesting)

tjstork (137384) | about 8 years ago | (#15097227)

Do we have any way of knowing how long Venus has been a runaway greenhouse? (That phrase, by the way, invokes a really bizarre mental image ... )

Almost from the get go. From what I've read, Venus has simply way, way too much Carbon Dioxide. Carl Sagan's romantic plan of seeding Venus with bacteria to eat up the CO2 simply fails because there is way too much CO2. To get Venus straightened out for human habitation, you would have flat out get rid of something like 89 parts out of 90 in the Venutian atmosphere, and there's really no place to put that much air. There've been some proposals to freeze it into giant CO2 chunks and launch them into space, or, slam some kind of an asteroid or even planet into Venus to jack the air into space, but both are so far beyond our technology as to be unimaginable. There's also not enough of other gasses in Venus's atmosphere - you really need a lot of nitrogen or something like it, like, well, the Earth has.

Then again, the Earth has an aweful of lot of Carbon Dioxide in the oceans and the limestone.... maybe we could all be doomed.

Is it conceivable that the climate there went haywire within human history? Given the current pressure, temperature, and chemical composition of the atmosphere on Venus, is there any chance that any indications at all could have survived of a possible former ecosystem there?

Well, there's one famous Internet crackpot that swears he sees Zeppelins on Venus and there are people there...and NASA is covering it up. But, outside of that, I think Venus has always been dead. Venus has a lot of problems even besides the grueling atmosphere. It has a long rotational period and lacks a magnetosphere.

As far as the earth goes, the most spectacular environment catastrophe posited is Snowball Earth [wikipedia.org]. Basically, the entire Earth was frozen over with a sheet of ice two miles thick, everything died and there was no oxygen in the atmosphere, for a period of a few hundred million years. It was a rough time, but, ironically, the Earth was saved by an accumulation of 350 times our present level of CO2.

What's really interesting about Earth's past is that the atmospheric composition has varied rather wildly. It is not at all automatic that we have 78% nitrogen, 20% oxygen and then some other gasses. I have no idea how they infer atmosphere, but it must have something to do with chemicals found in rocks and knowledge of how those chemicals must have been made, coupled with radioactive dating. Incidentally, the overall portion of CO2 in the air is rather small, something like 0.04% (and going up). For all the talk about whether the CO2 is manmade or not, or whether it causes global warming, some facts are most certainly known. First, the CO2 level has doubled in a 100 years, and when a planet wide change happens that fast, you really do have to have cause for concern. All sorts of questions need to be asked, but the big one is, is the rate of doubling changing? Like, will we double it again in 50 years, then 25 again, and so on? I think we only need to double the atmosphere not too many times before we all die.

Re:Earth's own past is gloomy enough to warn us (3, Funny)

Ucklak (755284) | about 8 years ago | (#15097300)

Maybe the inhabitants of Venus are being used as batteries for the computers that run the place.
Before that, they darkened the skies with CO2 in an attempt to destroy the computers.

Regarding the Zeppelins, maybe the Venutians are highly advanced (or the AI is) and if we were to go to war with Venus, we'd lose and be turned into batteries in an instant. NASA knows this and tell us that there is no life on Venus because we can't risk being turned into batteries. This is also why stories of Martians or far more prevalent than stories of Venutians kicking Terrans(or Earthlings) ass; to take away the focus.

Re:Earth's own past is gloomy enough to warn us (1)

Jeremi (14640) | about 8 years ago | (#15097314)

To get Venus straightened out for human habitation, you would have flat out get rid of something like 89 parts out of 90 in the Venutian atmosphere, and there's really no place to put that much air.


Pipe it over to Mars, and kill two birds with one stone?

Mars and Venus, and Spaceballs (1)

r00t (33219) | about 8 years ago | (#15097399)

Venus is female. Send a spaceship to suck.

Mars is male. When you get to Mars, switch from suck to blow.

Re:Earth's own past is gloomy enough to warn us (1)

Bad D.N.A. (753582) | about 8 years ago | (#15097421)

Pipe it over to Mars, and kill two birds with one stone?

That's one hell of a flexible pipe

Terraforming Venus quickly (1)

LeonGeeste (917243) | about 8 years ago | (#15097321)

I know of a scientist who wrote a proposal of how Venus could be (relatively) quickly terraformed. It was published by the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society. See here [paulbirch.net].(Unzip and read as gifs.) And see Birch's other papers here [paulbirch.net].

Re:Earth's own past is gloomy enough to warn us (3, Interesting)

CRCulver (715279) | about 8 years ago | (#15097386)

Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy [amazon.com] has terraformers get started on Venus by blocking its sunlight with a veil in between the planet and the sun. Once the atmosphere freezes, you can build on that. One is still forced to live in tents until terraforming is finally effective, but at least you're no longer in a death trap oven.

Kim Stanley Robinson needs a few science courses (1, Redundant)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 8 years ago | (#15097630)

As well as an education on human nature and the nature of society.

You would think before taking on a semi-hard science fiction story set in the near future he would have actually thought to talk to an engineer. Just one. None of his characters would live a day in the woods, much less on mars.

I can suspend my disbelief about most any premise for a story But:

A mars colony that was recruited from the parking lot at a 'Gratefull Dead' show (4+ hours after the show ended)?
A mars colony built with robotic equipment sent from earth, plus for bonus, an orbital teather (10^12 dollars or more before I put the book down)?
A frontier society that finally 'gets it together' and makes socialism work dispite evil capitalists (they want something for their 10^12 dollars)?
The capitalists bothering to take down the teather (why bother, hippies would be eating each other in six months)?

Off topic I know. Those books really really stink. Goodby karma as his fans mod me down.

Re:Kim Stanley Robinson needs a few science course (1)

CRCulver (715279) | about 8 years ago | (#15097685)

You would think before taking on a semi-hard science fiction story set in the near future he would have actually thought to talk to an engineer. Just one.

If I recall correctly, at least one of the books contains an acknowledgements section that lists the scientists consulted.

Re:Kim Stanley Robinson needs a few science course (1)

CRCulver (715279) | about 8 years ago | (#15097695)

The capitalists bothering to take down the teather (why bother, hippies would be eating each other in six months)?

The capitalists didn't take down the tether, the revolutionaries did. Read the relevant portion of Red Mars again.

Re:Earth's own past is gloomy enough to warn us (3, Insightful)

Guppy06 (410832) | about 8 years ago | (#15097646)

"To get Venus straightened out for human habitation, you would have flat out get rid of something like 89 parts out of 90 in the Venutian atmosphere,"

Or live above the clouds. Air is a lifting gas in the current Venusian atmosphere.

Re:Didn't you hear? It's GLOBAL WARMING (3, Insightful)

SetupWeasel (54062) | about 8 years ago | (#15097233)

Venus rotates on it's axis once every 243 Earth days. One Venusian day (sunrise to sunrise) is 117 Earth days. It also gets a hell of a lot more radiation than the Earth.

My guess, if it had oceans, the 59 days of straight sunlight would cause them to boil away. With the oceans gone, the surface would bake and scorch sending more gases into the air.

Re:Didn't you hear? It's GLOBAL WARMING (1)

onebecoming (965642) | about 8 years ago | (#15097579)

What's "runaway" or "haywire" about Venus's climate? I thought it was in equilibrium. It's stable, is it not?

Re:Didn't you hear? It's GLOBAL WARMING (1)

AndyAndyAndyAndy (967043) | about 8 years ago | (#15097583)

Looking at Venus and Earth, it seems global warming could actually have a positive side if you look at the right situation...
Quick! Everyone to Mars! Get those factories a-spewin'!

Scary! (-1, Offtopic)

linguizic (806996) | about 8 years ago | (#15097036)

Does it scare anyone else that the French keep trying to prove that at least one planet in our solar system is made of cheese?

Theory to why there is no water. (1)

priestx (822223) | about 8 years ago | (#15097047)

Could it simply be that during the Russian satellite development, the Soviets accidently left a solar powered microwave-oven without a door open causing a massive evaporation of all the water on the planet? Could be.

TFA (0, Offtopic)

TubeSteak (669689) | about 8 years ago | (#15097053)

I just noticed this now. There's a link that says "Change Format" on the left under the text ARTICLE TOOLS

It gives you a single column... like normal sites. I've always hated that side by side stuff.

Beware of Unicorns (-1, Offtopic)

martinX (672498) | about 8 years ago | (#15097060)

Europe's already been to Venus (1)

pchan- (118053) | about 8 years ago | (#15097204)

The Final Countdown by Europe (1990)

We're leaving together
But still it's farewell
And maybe we'll come back
To Earth, who can tell
I guess there is no one to blame
We're leaving ground (leaving ground)
Will things ever be the same again
It's the final countdown...
The final countdown
Ooh oh

We're heading for Venus (Venus)
And still we stand tall
Cause maybe they've seen us
And welcome us all (yeah)
With so many light years to go
And things to be found (to be found)
I'm sure that we'll all miss her so
It's the final countdown...
The final countdown
The final countdown (the final countdown)
Ooh ooh oh

(interlude)

The final countdown
Ooh oh
I'ts the final countdown
The final countdown
The final countdown (the final countdown)
Ooh
It's the final countdown
We are leaving together
The final countdown

Men are from mars, women are from Venus (2, Funny)

ThatGeek (874983) | about 8 years ago | (#15097066)

So let's send them all back!!!

Re:Men are from mars, women are from Venus (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15097171)

Are you trying to reduce your changes of getting laid even further?!

Re:Men are from mars, women are from Venus (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15097688)

In the name of ensuring the women stay on Venus, I shall sacrifice myself and go along with them. No need to thank me.

My opinion (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15097067)

Doesn't anyone get the point? It doesn't matter for squat that by following ESA's suggestions, we have become such poor caretakers of the tree of space exploration that it has wilted and is sagging dangerously close to the ground. What's far more relevant is that juxtaposed to this is the idea that I find ESA's contrivances symptomatic of a dangerous but spreading mentality. I must stress that I am not attempting to suppress anyone's opinions, nor do I intend to demean ESA personally for its beliefs of how the human race should move forward. But I do aver that we must maximize our potential for effectiveness and success in combatting space exploration. Our goal must now be to halt the adulation heaped upon what I call illiterate people who claim to be "scientists".

Title is misleading (5, Informative)

nacnud75 (963443) | about 8 years ago | (#15097069)

"ESA to Send Spacecraft to Venus"? They already did, Venus Express [esa.int] launched on 2006-11-09, it arives at Veuns on Tuesday.

Re:Title is misleading (1)

Ruie (30480) | about 8 years ago | (#15097153)

ESA to Send Spacecraft to Venus"? They already did, Venus Express launched on 2006-11-09, it arives at Veuns on Tuesday

Hi nacnud75 :)

Would you know who won the World Series in 2006 ? Just curious ! Thank you !

Re:Title is misleading (1)

JetJaguar (1539) | about 8 years ago | (#15097318)

You want misleading? My local newspaper, while reporting on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's arrival at Mars ran with the headline "The Orbiter Has Landed!"

Apparently the reporter didn't understand the difference between lithobraking and aerobraking.

Re:Title is misleading (1)

l0b0 (803611) | about 8 years ago | (#15097686)

So we've got "ESA to Send Spacecraft to Venus" today, and "ESA Spacecraft Reaches Venus" tomorrow? Non-RTFA-ers should be mighty impressed...

Send? How about "sent"? (4, Informative)

NoseBag (243097) | about 8 years ago | (#15097073)

Is this article a bit late?

See here:

http://sci.esa.int/science-e/www/area/index.cfm?fa reaid=64 [esa.int]

The thing is due to achieve orbit in a few days.

I nominate a new kind of troll! (0, Flamebait)

TrevorB (57780) | about 8 years ago | (#15097124)

Before we had grammar nazis.. now we have.. Tense Nazis!

(Actually I was thinking the same damned thing)

Re:I nominate a new kind of troll! (2, Funny)

Jeremi (14640) | about 8 years ago | (#15097275)

Before we had grammar nazis.. now we have.. Tense Nazis!


If you were a Nazi, you'd be tense too. All that "sig heiling" and ethnic clensing is really stressful...

Venus storm footage (4, Interesting)

lifeisgreat (947143) | about 8 years ago | (#15097089)

I've always had a fascination with storms, and now that I live at the beach I get to watch water-spouts, lightning and angry seas a couple times a week. But given the exotic atmosphere and storm systems on Venus, I could only imagine how breath-taking a full-color video could be from the ground. Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] says that at ground level there's almost no wind at all, but the thick sulfuric acid / sulfur dioxide clouds are constantly churning at 300+ km/h. Imagine looking up to a sight like that.

I just think that'd be incredible. Until everything melted.

Re:Venus storm footage (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15097521)

Wikipedia is, as usual, full of shit [wikipedia.org]. I'd edit the article to add consideration of a more balanced (read: what the rest of the world thinks) point of view, but what's the point? It'll just be reverted to a rah-rah-rosy view by fanatics.

Re:Venus storm footage (2, Interesting)

khayman80 (824400) | about 8 years ago | (#15097570)

Unfortunately, due to the high density of the atmosphere on the surface of Venus, you wouldn't be able to see more than a couple of meters (in visible light, at least).

The same mechanism that makes the earth's sky blue (wavelength dependant scattering of light) would, on Venus, scatter visible light to a much higher degree due to the density of the atmosphere. You wouldn't be able to see very far unless you used false-color imaging from the infrared or perhaps microwave parts of the EM spectrum.

Bummer. But I can imagine an orbiting spacecraft with a nice high-res camera will give us a pretty nice view of those storms.

Global Warming is a Liberal Urban Religion!! ACK! (-1, Flamebait)

The Ape With No Name (213531) | about 8 years ago | (#15097118)

Hell, who needs to go to Venus to "broiler" effects? Stick around here on the Blue Marble for a few more years, you be see up front and in person.

Re:Global Warming is a Liberal Urban Religion!! AC (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15097199)

Flamebait? Oh come on, that was pretty funny.

Use your mod points to mod up, not down.

Metric vs SAE (5, Funny)

samurphy21 (193736) | about 8 years ago | (#15097125)

At least the ESA can probably convert from old timey to scientific measurements properly.

<Mission control> Spacecraft 1, you are currently 1300 rods from impact, at a fuel consumption rate of 4 7/16 hogshead per mile. Be advised.

<Spacecraft> WTF?!

Re:Metric vs SAE (1)

Elminst (53259) | about 8 years ago | (#15097177)

What's this "mile" thing?? We use leagues, by golly. And speed is measured in furlongs per fortnight, by jove.

Girls are from... (2, Funny)

adyus (678739) | about 8 years ago | (#15097144)


Huh, I guess now that the space rovers on Mars failed to find any men, the geeks over at NASA are wondering if they'll discover any specimens of so-called "girls" on Venus...

Who knows, after this we might even get to understand how they work...

Leave the poor thing alone! (4, Funny)

UniverseIsADoughnut (170909) | about 8 years ago | (#15097146)

Poor planet, can't people leave it alone. It's just minding its own business and here come some dudes probing it. Would you want that, your just bumming around and whamo! probe to the ass in the name of science.

Stop planet Abuse now!

An interesting change from Mars, to be sure... (1, Insightful)

Ruff_ilb (769396) | about 8 years ago | (#15097148)

As far as I am aware, we know a lot less about the surface of Venus than we do about the surface of Mars or say, Mercury, or even Pluto. Given that Venus is relatively close to us, it seems to make sense to go about exploring it - especially since our satellites can't peer through the thick atmosphere.

Re:An interesting change from Mars, to be sure... (3, Informative)

Guppy06 (410832) | about 8 years ago | (#15097668)

"As far as I am aware, we know a lot less about the surface of Venus than we do about the surface of Mars or say, Mercury, or even Pluto."

Since the Magellan probe (which someone else already pointed you to), we've known more about the surface of Venus than we have about the Earth (oceans get in the way). Mars has been similarly mapped within the past decade or so, thanks to various orbiters. Mercury is something of the bastard child of the inner solar system; there's a probe on the way now, but the best we have is from a Mariner 10 fly-by that photographed most of one side of the planet before most of us were born.

Pluto... we're not even all that sure there is a "surface," at least for half of its orbit.

SUVs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15097159)

...how it maintains the planet's broiler-like temperatures.

Maybe we will get a peek at the finest SUVs in the solar system!

Pictures from the surface of Venus (5, Informative)

HoneyBeeSpace (724189) | about 8 years ago | (#15097163)

Check out http://www.mentallandscape.com/V_Venus.htm [mentallandscape.com] for an excellent archive of the Soviet exploration of Venus.

Venera 9 [mentallandscape.com] sent image telemetry for 50 minutes. It scanned 174 of the panorama from left to right, and then 124 scanning right to left.

They drilled, photographed, and used penetrometers on the surface. Each mission lasts a few hours to days before the atmosphere crumples the spacecraft like a soda can due to the pressure. Much different than life on Mars!

Terraforming (2, Interesting)

orangepeel (114557) | about 8 years ago | (#15097213)

I've been reading Slashdot for years and while there's always a ton of comments in the Mars articles about how great it would be terraform that planet, no one ever mentions doing so to Venus.

Why??

I look at the gravity situation and I really can't understand why people focus on Mars. Really. Does anyone ever look at the surface gravity of Mars before they start talking about terraforming it? It's only 38% of Earth's! (Compare that with freaking Mercury at 28%, or even the Moon at about 17%. ) What are your bones going to be doing in that environment after a few years?

But take a look at the surface gravity on Venus: it's 90% of Earth's.

Sure, you've got atmospheric pressures at the surface 90 times greater than on Earth. And the temperature averages 460 degrees Celsius. The atmosphere is about 96% carbon dioxide, and about 3% nitrogen. Then you've got trace amounts of sulfuric acid (tasty!), chlorine, and fluorine.

But seriously ... why, after comparing the two planets, do people focus on Mars? I'm asking an honest question. From my perspective, Mars has so little to work with. Venus has plenty -- too much in fact. But think about it. Humans have proven themselves pretty good at destroying atmospheres. They're not so good at creating them. And in the case of Mars, you need to create an atmosphere. But in the case of Venus, you need to destroy it. Doesn't this make Venus a more natural candidate for human endeavours?

Surely there's a chance that, with our slowly evolving understanding of organisms that survive around deep-sea volcanic vents, and our ever-evolving ability to tweak natural organisms, that we could devise some kind of bacteria that could thrive on Venus and start capturing the carbon from the atmosphere. There's so much for it to work with there. All that tasty carbon dioxide! And hey, H2SO4 ... can't you get water out of that somehow? Crank things up with some additional hardware, and if you pull enough material out of the atmosphere, you start to reduce surface pressure.

And then there's that beautiful surface gravity.

Have I mentioned the surface gravity and how it's so close to that found here on Earth, unlike Mars?

I'm sure plenty of people far smarter than I ever will be have considered Venus and dismissed the idea after a few seconds of thought. But why? And why is Mars, with such wimpy gravity and such a scarce existing atmosphere given all the attention when it comes to dreams of terraforming?

Where's the love and the dreams for Venus?

Re:Terraforming (1)

AusIV (950840) | about 8 years ago | (#15097262)

Keeping warm is a lot easier than cooling off. To keep warm, all you have to do is generate and retain heat. To cool off, you have to move the heat away and keep it from being replaced and on a place like venus, where are you going to move it to?

Re:Terraforming (1)

orangepeel (114557) | about 8 years ago | (#15097289)

How about not moving it anywhere?

Instead, how about stopping it from sticking around (reduce that CO2!!) -- or stopping it from arriving in the first place (find a clever way to create reflective, fluffy clouds).

Er, space? (1)

alienmole (15522) | about 8 years ago | (#15097632)

n/t

alas, space is not as "cold" as it sounds (4, Interesting)

Quadraginta (902985) | about 8 years ago | (#15097690)

In fact, spacecraft have a lot of trouble keeping cool in space. For example, from this [boeing.com] article on the integrated trusses that are part of the Space Station:

When deployed both [trusses] have a set of three radiators that is about the size of a tennis court. Each set of radiators has the cooling capacity to chill four 2,000 square-foot houses on a hot summer day and consumes the equivalent power used to cool and light eight houses.

The reason for needing this kind of effort to cool the Space Station, even thought it's in the "very cold" environment of space, is that while the temperature of space is very low, the thermal capacity of space is also very low. That is, there's just very, very little of any cold matter around to which you can transfer heat, the way your body transfers heat to winter air when you step outside in December. You can radiate heat as infrared radiation, of course, but to be efficient this requires a lot of surface area for the volume being cooled. And yet, of course, when you build spaceships you tend to want to minimize the surface area for a given volume -- i.e. build compact shapes.

Furthermore, in space the wretched Sun is radiating huge gobs of light and heat at you 24 hours a day. Got to get rid of that, too.

Re:Terraforming (1)

lovedew (964626) | about 8 years ago | (#15097272)

I think the atmospheric pressure is a big hurdle for human to do exploration, which is a pre-requisite for colonization.

Other planets you mentioned are relatively easy to land on and stay alive, while they may not look attractive as long-term accommodation, they are at least inhabitable for a short period of time.

Unless you are better equipped, it's probably a good idea to start a colony in a remote area rather than going straight into an Indian tribe.

Re:Terraforming (2, Insightful)

SetupWeasel (54062) | about 8 years ago | (#15097274)

Too many people get their science from fiction books. Mars has too little gravity and Venus has too long of a day to create an Earth-like planet out of them.

Re:Terraforming (1)

Jeremi (14640) | about 8 years ago | (#15097295)

Where's the love and the dreams for Venus?


You have a point, but I think it's clear why people don't think of Venus as a suitable planet: from every description, the surface of Venus sounds exactly like the description of Hell. Who would want to live in Hell? Mars, on the other hand, just looks a bit rocky and barren (you can't see the lack of gravity or atmosphere in the pictures). Granted, with sufficient terraforming they could both be completely different, but in the popular imagination, Mars looks a lot closer to the ideal than Venus is. Plus, the fact that we can put probes on Mars and drive them around without having them melt into sludge gives people a lot more confidence about Mars.

Re:Terraforming (1)

WindBourne (631190) | about 8 years ago | (#15097313)

Of course, the answer is easy; Package the CO2 and send it to mars. Then have 2 for the price of one. Interestingly, with an atmosphere of 90x earth, it would be easy to keep something up high and "fire off the top layers of the atmosphere aimed at mars.Of course, you have to freeze it and then send it to mars, while keeping it frozen in the glare of the sun. Perhaps a small shield built up from the mars material.

Re:Terraforming (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | about 8 years ago | (#15097372)

"Of course, the answer is easy; Package the CO2 and send it to mars. Then have 2 for the price of one."

Would this work? I mean, if a bunch of the atmosphere from Venus were magically sent to Mars, would that potentially raise the air pressure high enough to be, more or less, what we have on earth? (Yes, I realize this won't be oxygen, just curious if Mars is big enough or if that would open the floodgates for other sorts of problems...)

Re:Terraforming (1)

WindBourne (631190) | about 8 years ago | (#15097471)

Can it take the CO2? Sure. Would it raise the pressure? If you sent enough. The problem is of course, being able to send a significant amount at a low enough cost. The truth is, that we are very capable of doing a large number of planet engineering. The problem is that it is cost prohibitive due to the high resources and time needed.

Of course, that begs that question if doing that, would cause issues with Mars. Mars is supposedly on a teeter-toter WRT to CO2 and Water/Ice. If the global temp drops several degrees, than mars freezes solid. OTH, if Mars can be raised just several degrees, then it would be a runaway reaction and would realize nearly all the CO2 and ice. That would warm it some more. If any of this is really true, will not be known for some time.

Re:Terraforming (2, Interesting)

forkazoo (138186) | about 8 years ago | (#15097350)

But seriously ... why, after comparing the two planets, do people focus on Mars? I'm asking an honest question. From my perspective, Mars has so little to work with. Venus has plenty -- too much in fact. But think about it. Humans have proven themselves pretty good at destroying atmospheres. They're not so good at creating them. And in the case of Mars, you need to create an atmosphere. But in the case of Venus, you need to destroy it. Doesn't this make Venus a more natural candidate for human endeavours?


Well, humans are "destroying" their atmosphere by... Adding lots of C02 and other stuff to it. We aren't making our atmosphere disappear. So, we have no useful experience with what would be needed. Second, it's impossible to install any machinery on the surface of Venus to try to make carbon rocks out of the atmosphere, or otherwise store it away. So, you'd need to have giant floating "gas mines" which launch the atmosphere of Venus into space. 90 of Earth's atmosphere's worth. Think of a plan to launch the entirety of Earth atmosphere somplace else. Without touching the ground. 90 Times! IF you can't think of a good plan, don't worry -- nobody else has managed to either.

As for Mars, it has a shitload of C02 and water frozen at the poles. If we can heat the planet up enough, that will all go into the atmosphere, doing most of the work for us. Also, lots of carbon stored in rock on mars which could outgas once the poles are in the atmosphere, which would do most of the remaining work fo us. So, Mars really just needs a good kick start. The lower gravity also makes it easier to have a space faring civilisation there, and you have easy access to the asteroids.

Also, I'm not sure how hot Venus would be with 1 atmosphere of pressure. Quite a bit hotter than earth. You'd probably need to make it mostly 02, with a lower total pressure than one atmosphere, in order to be breathable, and at a livable temperature. Depending on how much O2 you would have to be both livably cool, and breathable for humans, you may run into problems growing plants, and whatnot.

Re:Terraforming (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15097388)

I look at the gravity situation and I really can't understand why people focus on Mars.

Oh THAT'S easy! They focus on Mars because all the fat Earthlings need that lighter gravity to feel normal again.

Re:Terraforming (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15097406)

Crank things up with some additional hardware, and if you pull enough material out of the atmosphere, you start to reduce surface pressure.

Heck, I was thinking you were serious, until i read THAT!

Re:Terraforming (2, Informative)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 8 years ago | (#15097462)

I'm sure plenty of people far smarter than I ever will be have considered Venus and dismissed the idea after a few seconds of thought. But why? And why is Mars, with such wimpy gravity and such a scarce existing atmosphere given all the attention when it comes to dreams of terraforming?
There are several reasons but two biggies;

1 - Suit and machinery design for Mars are overwhelmingly easier. (Think Mars = suburban backyard. Venus = two feet under flowing lava on the bottom of the Marianas Trench.)

2 - Nobody has figured out how to get rid of the gigatons of carbon that would have to be removed from the Venusian atmophere. (You can't just convert it to bricks and pile it up - it's flammable as hell.)

Re:Terraforming (1)

LouisZepher (643097) | about 8 years ago | (#15097650)

It's funny you should make those two analogies, as the solution is simple. Suburban backyards are known for barbeques. Just take the bricks of carbon to Mars along with some burgers, spiedies and beer for a nice cook-out...

Re:Terraforming (4, Insightful)

Jerf (17166) | about 8 years ago | (#15097522)

Heh, you've attracted a lot of replies and nobody's yet hit the right answer.

Propose your choice of terraforming technique. Convert one chemical into another, physically remove the atmosphere, don't care which you choose, really.

Now, compute the energy requirements of your terraforming action.

Then you shall achieve enlightenment.

In short, terraforming Mars for a geologically brief period of time is on the tantalizing edge of feasibility, because a lot of it would involve slightly nudging comets and such to hit Mars. That's a net gravitational energy reduction, and we might be able to manage that. Even so, it might not work; I think it far more likely you'd have to build enclosed settlements, or perhaps even more likely, modify life forms to live on Mars basically as it is, possibly with some resources augmented by the aforementioned comets. But to get from Venus as it is, to a Venus we could walk on, would take an astronomical amount of energy no matter how you slice it. (A rather small "astronomical" amount of energy as such things go, but "astronomical" nonetheless.) It's one of those things that by the time we can do it, we'll probably have better uses for that sort of energy.

By the way, I'm actually-factually talking about energy states, in the technical thermodynamic sense. It's not a matter of waiting for "science" to wave a magic wand; any 'science' that can re-write the laws of thermodynamics is well beyond anything we can speculate about. Conservation laws are about the strongest physics results we have.

Re:Terraforming (4, Interesting)

Quadraginta (902985) | about 8 years ago | (#15097652)

You make a good argument, but I'd like to add a qualification. I'm not sure the availability of energy itself is a problem with Venus. More than enough energy for any conceivable terraforming rains down on Venus from the Sun. And it's quite usable energy, since its temperature is close to that of the solar photosphere (5500K). Thermodynamically speaking, you can run some very efficient heat engines between a hot reservoir at 5500K and a cold reservoir at even the high temperatures of Venus (300-700K, depending on altitude).

So the energy is there. But it isn't necessarily easy to use. The only plausible scenario probably remains some kind of biological seeding, i.e. designing some kind of photosynthesizing microbial life that can suck up all that CO2 and convert it to carbonate rock, as such life is thought to have done in the early history of the Earth, which is where our CO2 went and why we have great beds of limestone in the crust.

But I believe the problem with this is that there is very little water in the Venusian atmosphere, and all the microbial life we know about needs water. Furthermore, such a seeding process would not be quick -- at a minimum, millions of years are necessary -- and it might be hard to put the brakes on at the end.

Re:Terraforming (2, Informative)

EnsignFlandry (894050) | about 8 years ago | (#15097563)

Where's the love and the dreams for Venus?

right here in this here paper is where it is.

http://powerweb.grc.nasa.gov/pvsee/publications/ve nus/VenusColony_STAIF03.pdf [nasa.gov]

From the link:

Abstract. Although the surface of Venus is an extremely hostile environment, at about 50 kilometers above the
surface the atmosphere of Venus is the most earthlike environment (other than Earth itself) in the solar system. It is
proposed here that in the near term, human exploration of Venus could take place from aerostat vehicles in the
atmosphere, and that in the long term, permanent settlements could be made in the form of cities designed to float at
about fifty kilometer altitude in the atmosphere of Venus.

what's so special about 9.8 m/s^2? (2, Insightful)

Quadraginta (902985) | about 8 years ago | (#15097719)

But...why is having roughly 1g of gravity worth the enormous trouble of coping with pressures comparable to those at the bottom of the ocean? And temperatures so high in a corrosive atmosphere that only special and expensive building materials could stand it?

What's wrong with having only a third of a gee or so of gravity? From the point of view of building structures, it's a boon. You have enough gravity to keep stuff in place, and allow conventional building techniques (unlike in orbit), but you can make your trusses and beams slimmer, 'cause they don't have to carry as much weight. You can build out of polystyrene instead of steel, so to speak.

Furthermore, from the pressure point of view, you only have to keep 1 atm of good stuff (breathable air) in, and a few small leaks just mean you need to replenish your air faster, whereas on Venus you need to keep 90 atom of bad stuff (highly toxic air) out, and small leaks mean corrosive poison gas in your breathing air. Ugh.

Not to mention on Mars you can see what you're doing, communicate to orbit with lasers, do a little astronomy, and enjoy the night-time sky, while on Venus you live at the bottom of the worst possible eternal gray pea-soup fog.

Finally, people think there might be life left on Mars, and there's certainly little doubt if we brought life with us it could survive there, while Venus is just completely intolerable to life due to the extreme temperatures.

That's not to say Mars doesn't have problems. The biggest, I suggest, is actually radiation, since Mars has no ozone layer to shield against UV, and no magnetic field to speak of to shield against cosmic rays. You'd not want to stand under the open sky on Mars for very long without good radiation shielding, I think.

Mars (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15097224)

Considering how good their track record is on Mars, I am not surprised they are going to Venus.

Okay, is it only me ... (1)

Mathness (145187) | about 8 years ago | (#15097264)

...the European Space Agency is planning to send a spacecraft to peer at Venus.

It is only me, or are they takeing this 'hidden webcams of nudes women' thing a little too far? Plenty of that stuff on the net already, NASA, go do some science instead. Sheesh.

Fools (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15097268)

Haven't these scientists seen Night of the Living Dead

To many space articles (1)

Scott Swezey (678347) | about 8 years ago | (#15097367)

After yesterdays article about blue rings around everyones favoritely named planet, I accidentily read this articles title as "ESA sends space craft to peer at Uranus."

Thank god I double checked, the idea of huge phalic shaped rocket being launched towards myanus at high speed did not sound appealing to me!

Pressurize the probe before launching it! (1)

dougmc (70836) | about 8 years ago | (#15097545)

Be sure to pressurize the probe first (to match that of the Venus atmosphere) before launching it -- that way, if something goes wrong, and it ends up back on Earth and begins a path of destruction, it can be destoyed by simply attaching a cable and raising it up high in our atmosphere ...

Unless of course your goal is to make it somewhat resistant to any men who cost about 67 million pesos [imdb.com], in which case do not pressurize it beforehand ...

Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Sign up for Slashdot Newsletters
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...