Can Humans Live On Venus?

With increasing concerns about climate change, population growth, and how long Earth will be able to support human life, scientists are looking to other planets in the solar system and considering their suitability for the survival of our species.

There has been a lot of research carried out to see if we could live on Mars, but there are other planets in the solar system that we can consider. Mars is the fourth planet from the sun, and Earth the third, but what about the second?

Venus is often described as Earth’s twin, as it is roughly the same size and mass and has a similar composition. Venus is the closest planet to Earth at about 25 million miles away, or 40 million kilometers.

One full revolution of the sun takes approximately 225 Earth days, but a day on Venus is the equivalent of 243 Earth days. Venus also rotates clockwise on its axis rather than anti-clockwise, and is the only planet to do so.

So, could Venus be a suitable home for our species? Can humans live on Venus?

What Is The Temperature Like On Venus?

In order to survive on Venus, we would have to be able to handle the temperature. The average surface temperature on Venus is 847 degrees fahrenheit, which makes it the warmest planet in our solar system and is hot enough to melt lead. This is far too hot for humans to survive, but what makes the planet so warm?

Venus has a thick atmosphere made up of carbon dioxide, which traps heat from the sun and does not let the infrared rays escape back into space.

This creates an uncontrolled greenhouse effect which increases the surface temperature by more than double what it would otherwise be. Even if the surface temperature was closer to 200 to 300 degrees fahrenheit, this is too warm to support life.

Interestingly, the high pressure of the atmosphere would make it possible for liquids to remain stable on the surface and at that temperature, but at 800 to 900 degrees fahrenheit any water that used to be present has been boiled off the atmosphere, leaving the ocean basins empty.

The temperature on Venus fluctuates throughout its revolution of the sun, as it has an elliptical orbit. This means that at certain times of year it is closer to the sun, and at other times it is further away.

What Is The Surface Of Venus Like?

To understand whether humans would be able to survive on Venus, we need to know what the surface of the planet is like. It is difficult for us to get satellite images of the surface of venus due to the dense clouds of sulfuric acid that surround the planet.

These thick clouds are what cause Venus to appear so bright from Earth, as they reflect the sunlight back into space giving the planet a yellowish color. Nasa has been able to use sophisticated radar systems to produce a map of the surface.

The radar imaging also picked up the presence of lightning which is thought to be caused by the high pressure, which is 92 times higher than the atmosphere on Earth.

The surface of Venus is very hot and dry, mainly made up of rolling plains. It has large lowland and highland areas the size of large continents like Australia and South America. There are mountains and volcanoes on Venus, and lava flows over much of the surface.

The highest mountain on Venus is higher than Mount Everest at over 7 miles high. There are not very many craters on Venus, as meteors burn up in the thick atmosphere before they hit the surface. Any craters that were present would now be covered with lava.

NASA has not landed any spacecraft on the surface of Venus, but the Soviet Union has sent several unmanned crafts to the planet. They did not last long on the surface before they were crushed by the high pressure atmosphere or melted by the hot temperatures. They were, however, able to gather some atmospheric data, take the surface temperature, and take some photographs. 

One of the spacecraft was even able to briefly study some of the rocks on the surface of the planet.

As Venus and Earth have a similar size and mass, their surface gravity is almost the same. If you were able to survive on the surface, you would weigh around 91% of your weight on Earth. The composition of Venus is also very similar to Earth, with a central iron core and a rocky mantle.

Can We Breathe On Venus?

One of the most important factors to consider is whether we would be able to breathe on Venus.

The atmosphere on Venus is made up of 96% carbon dioxide and 3% nitrogen, with trace amounts of other gases. This differs greatly from our one atmosphere which is made up of 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, 0.9% argon and 0.1 percent other gases like trace amounts of carbon dioxide and methane.

Humans need to breathe in oxygen to survive, which makes the composition of the atmosphere of Venus unsuitable.

The atmosphere of Venus is also too dense for us to breathe in- it would crush us before we were even able to take a breath! That’s assuming we survived the high temperatures long enough.

Even if you wore a spacesuit with an oxygen tank to try and explore the surface, your spacecraft would be crushed by the pressure or melted by the heat very quickly. The surface temperature is also too hot to allow us to explore the planet in spacesuits, and much of the surface is covered with lava.

Summary

Even though Venus has many similarities to Earth, it is also very different. It is much hotter- the hottest planet in the solar system - and has a very high pressure atmosphere with no oxygen. There is no way that Venus could support any kind of life, not even microorganisms, so humans would not be able to live on the planet. 

Gordon Watts
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