A case for colonizing Venus, Jetsons style

The suggestion is that the conditions would be vastly superior to any prospective colony on Mars. A large part of this discussion is really about the fact that Mars is a pretty poor choice for a colony, but for a lot of reasons that aren’t obvious to most people (lack of critical resources like carbon and water, temperature extremes, etc.).

I think everyone is missing the fact that it’s not going to be like “Bioshock Infinite”: the floating dwellings will still need to be generally sealed (although, as he points out, loss of perfect seal doesn’t imply everyone dying, like it would on Mars: it would just be an inconvenience). The atmosphere up there is apparently full of useful gases, but remains relatively toxic.

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At the very least it has lethal concentrations of CO2.

I’m not sure what kind of mining you think you’re going to accomplish when they’re dangling from a colony that’s traveling at 200kph.

Those landers that survived were basically steel pressure vessels. The big problem with running equipment on the surface of Venus isn’t the pressure, it’s the heat. Making stuff that won’t melt under those conditions is extremely difficult, especially since it will be making a lot of its own heat that it needs to sink. Undersea mining doesn’t have nearly as much problem with this, there is a huge heatsink available at arms reach.

I guess a more realistic solution (and I use this word loosly) would be to have your colonies anchored to the ground and equipped with small(ish) and computer controlled wings that could be used to stabilize the colony against the wind. You need a cable that can stay implanted into the ground in an extremely hot and acidic environment with enormous and variable loading indefinitely. We certainly don’t have anything today that would even be close to sufficient. That might be a harder challenge than building a space elevator on Earth.

Fahrenheit? psi? Really??

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Are you kidding? I hear it’s teeming with hot green women. Hubba hubba!

I wrote a slightly longer version of the idea of colonising venus from aloft here: http://spiritofcontradiction.eu/rowan-duffy/2012/08/23/colonising-venus

Actually, there’s quite a bit of mass outside of deep gravity wells like Venus. They’re called “asteroids”. (-:

Many of them are high-grade nickel-iron. Not nickel-iron ore, mind you, but nearly pure metal.

Many asteroids are easy to get to - they’re called “near-earth asteroids”, and you can get to some of them with less energy expenditure than going to the moon.
And there’s more than metal in the asteroids - there’s virtually everything you need for a spacefaring civilization - metal, stone, water, fuel feedstocks, reaction mass, shielding…

What if you had an automated microgravity foundry that could ingest asteroidal nickel-iron and extrude 3-D-printed structural steel components? You could build things in space without lifting them off the surface of a planet.

You’d also need exploratory missions to map and assay the resources; medium- and heavy-lift launchers; manned vehicles capable of traveling there and back; automated cargo transfer vehicles; and expandable modules for habitation and storage.

Fortunately, all of those things are currently in the works. Some are already flying, some will be flying very shortly, and all the others are under active development and on track for near-future deployment.

None of them are just speculations or pipe dreams.

These are not altruistic explorations for science funded by taxpayers. They’re hard-headed, long-range business plans by deep-pocketed investors who intend to be the future’s equivalent of the railroad tycoons, the oil barons, and the mining millionaires of the past - the Carnegies, Stanfords, Huntingtons, and Gettys of the 21st century.

SpaceX; United Launch Alliance; Orbital Sciences; Bigelow Aerospace; Deep Space Industries; Blue Origin; Sierra Nevada Aerospace - those are just some of the companies currently developing the technologies that will make it possible in the not very distant future.

If and when colonies are built in space, they’ll be built from materials that are already there, not materials boosted up out of planetary gravity wells.

Surely Earth is home to the most Earth-like conditions in our entire solar system.


Yeah, I’ve heard that before, and I’ll believe it when I see it. The technical challenges on asteroid mining are enormous, and neither Nickel nor Iron are especially expensive on Earth. There are no serious projects even in planning right now that need massive amounts of raw metal in orbit.

I have trouble believing someone is going to invest the many billions of dollars needed to actually capture an asteroid and set up a smelter on it to make metal for a market that doesn’t exist yet in the hopes that if they build it they will come.

I can think of criminals who deserve to be shipped into the SUN. . .

Spammers. And those idiot recruiters who call with a totally irrelevant job, halfway across the continent, for 6 weeks and half your current pay, that MUST speak with you about their “urgent requirement”. . . .

A minor quibble: The article states that “a typical Venusian day is longer than the Venusian year, taking 243 Earth days”. Since Venus has retrograde rotation, a solar day on Venus is slightly less than half a Venus year, or 117 Earth days. Still long.

You could make similar cases for the ‘surfaces’ of gas giants, though their atmospheres are quite a bit colder:
Saturn: gravity 0.92 G, pressure 1.4 atm.
Uranus: gravity 0.89 G, pressure 1.2 atm.
Neptune: gravity 1.14 G, pressure ~ 1 atm.
The gravity wells, however, are quite deep; 15-16 times Earth’s for Uranus and Neptune and a whopping 84 times for Saturn.

A better idea IMO is to colonize the Kuiper Belt. Kuiper objects are half water ice, half a mixture of carbon, nitrates, silicates, and ferrous minerals - all we need to grow crops if we add energy (e.g. fusion). Turning major Kuiper objects (10+ km diameter) into rotating cylinders with 100 m thick ice walls makes living space for ca. 300 trillion people with a population density like e.g. Denmark.

Why bother with fusion power when you can setup gigantic reflectors and solar panels and harness the enormous fusion power source in the middle of our solar system? There’s one thing that’s great about space, and that’s highly reliable solar power.

I guarantee that giant mirrors will be easier to manufacture and deploy than a fully functioning fusion plant. We can’t even get one of those working on Earth yet.

Just think, though, you could mint your own pennies! You’d be rich!

Why not use giant reflectors? Well, the Kuiper Belt is situated roughly between 30 AU and 50 AU from the Sun, so the power of sunlight is between 1/900th and 1/2500th of what we have in Earth orbit. This makes reflectors impractical, I think.To heat just one square kilometer with something like the sunlight we’re used to, you would need at least 900 square kilometers of reflector - and the reflector would need to be perfect.

It is true that fusion power is pretty difficult to control today, but that need not be the case, say, 100 years from now.

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