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Wednesday, December 24, 2014


This is HAVOC, NASA's new proposal for utilizing lighter than air craft to explore and colonize Venus. This is an enormous paradigm shift for them. For years the common wisdom has been that Venus was utterly uninhabitable, with surface atmospheric pressures 92 times that of earth (about the equivalent of one kilometer under water on earth), and surface temperatures above 500° C. But of course, if we were to explore an earth-analog planet with oceans like ours, we would probably not begin exploring that at one kilometer down, either. By the simple physics of adiabatic lapse rate (the higher you go in the atmosphere, the colder and less dense it becomes), at some altitude above the surface of Venus the atmosphere is of terrestrial densities and temperatures. There are issues; sulfuric acid, for example, falls as rain there. But life support in this environment would be trivial compared to the Martian surface.

The transit times for a mission to the atmosphere of Venus and back to earth are much, much less than for trip to and from the surface of Mars. The Delta V budget to the Venusian atmosphere is higher than a landing on Mars (25 km/sec vs 19 km/sec), but this penalty may well be outweighed by the smaller amount of hardware needed to survive above Venus. This has very, very serious potential to be the first human exploration and colonization of another planet.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Orion Rising

Flawless launch, flight, re-entry and splash down. Nicely done, NASA. Welcome home. We've missed you.

And, a huge shout-out to United Launch Alliance as well.