NASA’s Space Mission Analysis Branch (SMAB) recently revealed a research project it is working on to send astronauts to Venus. The project calls for inflatable pods that would float above clouds in Venus’ atmosphere to house the astronauts.
The project is called the High Altitude Venus Operational Concept (HAVOC). The SMAB is working on the mission architecture and vehicle for the exploration. The plan was unveiled through a movie and image posted on a NASA website.
The conceptual design envisions inflatable silver blimp-like air balloons that could house two astronauts. They would live and work in the pods for up to a month while floating in Venus’ upper atmosphere. The vehicles currently under development could be used to transport a variety of instruments and probes to explore the planet and its atmosphere. NASA plans to perform aerocapture maneuvers at Venus and Earth, insert and inflate the airship when it reaches Venus, and protect the structure and its solar panels from the sulfuric acid in Venus’ atmosphere.
According to NASA, sending a manned mission to Venus would require less time than sending an expedition to Mars. The mission would also be easier because unlike Mars, Venus has an environment with gravity, pressure, and density similar to those of Earth.
NASA says further advances in technology will be necessary before it can undertake the mission. It will also need to further refine the concept and design to make its goal a reality.
The space agency is already working on other technologies that can be used on space missions. Earlier this year, astronauts on the International Space Station created the first 3D-printed object in space. NASA is currently working on 3D-printing tools to use on the ISS.