Friday, March 5, 2010

Fantastic Future Friday: Love and Blimps

The planet Venus, named for the goddess of love, with its Carbon Dioxide atmosphere that is 90 times the pressure of Earth’s atmosphere, its Sulfuric Acid clouds, its balmy 860 degree temperature, seems like a lovely place to raise a family.

The idea is not as improbable as it sounds. Although the surface of the planet is pretty hellish, the “upper atmosphere” isn’t all that bad. Just 50 miles above the surface of Venus the atmospheric pressure is close the atmosphere on Earth. That height is above the sulfuric acid haze and into the Sulfuric Acid Clouds.

Because CO2 is heavier than the Oxygen-Nitrogen atmosphere that us humans prefer breathing the artificial atmosphere would actually work as a lifting gas to help keep a blimp afloat in the upper atmosphere, helium balloons could take care of the rest of the lift needed to keep a colony afloat.

The helium balloons could be deployed on 10-kilometer tethers so that they reached completely above the Sulfuric Acid Clouds and hold solar panels providing the floating cities with power.

If the cities were built with a lightweight material like Buckypaper or even Carbon Composites they could easily float in this semi-hospitable region.

Once the cities are established they could have giant greenhouses on board, taking Carbon Dioxide from the atmosphere and make Oxygen, not only for the inhabitants but to release back into the Sulfuric Acid clouds. The Oxygen would combine with the Sulfuric acid and create Sulfur Dioxide, a global cooling gas, and water.

With enough of these floating cities we can begin the process of cooling down Venus.

Finally we could use the solar power to compress and freeze the CO2 in the atmosphere and send it in space, well insulated of course. With a sizeable amount of frozen CO2 or dry ice in orbit, we can send it to Mars, a place that needs more atmosphere.

As we decrease Venus’s atmospheric pressure and temperature the floating cities would start to sink towards the surface until (in a few hundred years) they will land on a planet that has been terraformed to be very similar to Earth.

1 comment:

Stephanie Barr said...

You know, that's a fascinating concept. Venus is my favorite planet in the solar system (other than this one). I had never thought of that. Clever.

Actually, reducing the temperature will also make a considerable difference in the pressure. I don't think we'd actually need to ship off the atmosphere. Better to use the materials in the atmosphere in solids on Venus. Moving massive, uh, masses, from one planet to another is not as useful as using the masses in situ more effectively.