Venus, often called Earth’s “evil twin” planet, formed closer to the Sun and since then has evolved quite differently from our planet. He has a “runaway” greenhouse effect (meaning the heat is completely trapped), a thick atmosphere rich in carbon dioxide, no magnetic field, and a surface hot enough to melt lead.

Several unmanned science missions will study how and why this happened over the next decade. But now some scientists want to send a mission with a crew there too for the span. Is this a good idea?

With a slightly smaller diameter than Earth, Venus orbits closer to the Sun. This means that any water on the surface would evaporate soon after it formed, starting the greenhouse effect. Early and prolonged volcanic eruptions created lava plains and increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere – starting a greenhouse effect that raised temperatures from just above Earth’s to the current high of 475 degrees Celsius.

Although the year of Venus is shorter than ours (225 days), its rotation is very slow (243 days) and “retrograde” – opposite to the Earth. The slow rotation is due to the absence of a magnetic field, resulting in a constant loss of atmosphere.

The atmosphere of Venus “superspins” faster than the planet itself. Images from many missions show V-shaped cloud patterns made up of sulfuric acid droplets.

Despite the harsh conditions, some scientists have suggested that the cloud cover of Venus may contain habitable conditions at some altitudes. Apparently recent measurements showing phosphine — a potential sign of life continuously produced by microbes on Earth — in the clouds of Venus has sparked intense debate. Obviously, we need more measurements and research to figure out where this is coming from.

Future missions

What we know about Venus so far has been gathered from several past probes. In 1970-82, for example, Sav Venus 7-14 probes were able to land on the harsh surface of Venus, survive for up to two hours, and send back images and data. But questions remain about how Venus evolved so differently from Earth, which is also important for understanding which planets orbiting other stars might harbor life.

The next decade promises to be a good one for Venus scientists. In 2021, NASA chose two missions, Veritas and DaVinci+, is planned to be launched in 2028-30. European Space Agency selected by EnVision for launch in the early 2030s. These are additional unmanned missions that will give us a deeper understanding of the environment and evolution of Venus.

Craters on Venus seen by NASA’s Magellan probe on Venus.

Veritas will map the surface of Venus to determine its geological history, rock composition and the importance of early water. DaVinci+ includes an orbiter and a small probe that will descend through the atmosphere and measure its composition, study the formation and evolution of the planet, and determine whether it once had an ocean. EnVision will study traces of gases on the planet’s surface, subsurface and atmosphere. It will use radar to map the surface with better resolution than ever before.

India is also planning an unmanned mission, Shukrayaan-1and Russia offered Venus-D.

Do we need manned flights?

The idea of ​​a crewed flyby of Venus was proposed in the late 1960s, and involved the use of the Apollo capsule to fly people around the planet. But that idea ended when Apollo graduated. Now the Artemis lunar orbiter project and other ideas for crewed missions have led to the idea being put forward again, most recently in magazine articles and at a recent meeting of Art International Federation of Astronauticshuman rights organization, in September 2022.

The idea was to fly around Venus and return to Earth in a crewed spacecraft. This will allow scientists to test deep space techniques, such as how to manage a crewed mission with significant delays while communicating with Earth. So this could prepare us for a more challenging manned mission to Mars. Nevertheless, the crew did not engage in either landing or studying the atmosphere on Venus – the conditions are too harsh.

Researchers who support the idea say you could also use Venus’ gravity to alter the spacecraft’s course to Mars, which could save time and energy compared to going directly from Earth to Mars. That’s because the latter option would require the two planets’ orbits to coincide, meaning you’d have to wait for the right moment both on the way there and back. However, since a crewed mission to Mars would be very difficult, going directly from Earth to Mars would make the design simpler.

Sending people to a planet that might have living organisms isn’t going to make finding them any easier either. It’s risky—we could pollute the atmosphere before we discover life. The best way to detect biochemical signs of life is with non-twist probes. There will also be significant thermal problems and higher radiation from solar flares due to the greater proximity to the Sun.

And unfortunately, with such a flyby mission, only a few hours of data on entry and exit trajectories would be obtained. This would be a very expensive undertaking that would no doubt provide wonderful images and useful additional data. However, this would add little to the detailed and much longer individual studies currently being planned. Therefore, I believe that the possibility of a manned mission to Venus is very unlikely.

There were also conceptual, more far-fetched studies — including sending airships with a crew hovered in the atmosphere of Venus, not just flying by. It’s a good idea that could achieve more scientific results than flight, but for now it remains a distant and unrealistic concept.

At the moment, we are only conducting research with a crew in low Earth orbit. Project Artemis, however, aims to fly humans around the moon and build a station called Gateway in lunar orbit. It is designed to do science, allow crews to land on the moon and, crucially, to test deep space techniques such as refueling and operating in a remote environment, which in the long run could help us get to Mars without training on Venus.Explained why the mission to send people to Venus is not easy

This article is reprinted from Conversation under a Creative Commons license. To read original article.

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