The constant thirst for exploration in outer space is one of the most encouraging facets of mankind. Our desire to reach for the stars and extend our orb of life is one of the noblest and purest pursuits in human history. For years, astronomers and researchers at NASA have been stuck trying to figure out how they can explore Venus in a more in-depth capacity. While Mars is largely getting most of our attention, and for good reason, Venus has come up as a close second. The team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab is workshopping a way to further their exploration of Venus’s incredibly dense and heavy atmosphere. The solution may be found by going back to simpler concepts, such as the atmospheric weather balloon.
When considering further exploration of Venus one has to taken into account the sheer weight of the atmosphere. Siddharth Krishnamoorthy, a postdoctoral employee at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, explained the problem as such: “On Venus, the atmosphere has about 90 times the pressure as what you find on the surface of the Earth.” Krishnamoorthy goes on to explain that Venus’ atmosphere feels more like an ocean that surrounds the entire planet than an actual crust. This obviously would make further exploration difficult without some sort of creative solution. That creative solution, as it turns out, is the atmospheric balloon.
NASA’s plan to launch an atmospheric balloon to hover over Venus are exceptionally complicated but no less sensible for the idea. The goal would be to put a balloon nearly 34 miles away from the surface of the planet. By keeping the balloon this far away from the surface of Venus, NASA would be able to keep it operational in almost Earth-like temperature and pressure conditions. As a result, NASA would not need to plan for shielding or extreme temperatures that would otherwise destroy an aircraft in moments. The bonus perk of this concept is that the atmospheric balloon would also be given enough energy from the sun to remain in operation via solar power.
One of the most prominent data points that NASA is pursuing revolves around earthquakes on Venus. These balloons, according to Krishanmoorthy, would be sensitive enough to actually gauge the earthquakes on the surface of the planet. The goal for NASA would be to run the balloon for six months at minimum and up to a year at maximum. Krishnamoorthy concludes, “It’s not unheard of to be able to deploy a balloon at Venus.”