Man’s old dream is to leave Earth and find a new home in space. Sooner or later it will be necessary for our survival. The attention-grabbing planet is Mars – small, poisonous, an energy-poor planet that barely becomes a colony of depressed people, nestled in underground cities. But why don’t we think bigger? Why don’t we take Venus, one of the most hostile and deadly places in the solar system, and not turn HER into a colony?
Not with cities in the clouds, and with the creation of a true second Earth? It’s easier than you think. Venus is the hottest planet in the solar system, with a surface temperature of 460 ° C, so high that it melts lead. This heat is due to the most extreme greenhouse effect in the solar system. CO2 is good at retaining heat – even rising from 0.
03% to 0.04% in the Earth’s atmosphere warms our planet right now. The atmosphere of Venus is 97% CO2.
Also, it is 93 times denser than that of the Earth. To stand on the surface of Venus would be, as if you were submerged 900 meters below the surface of the ocean.
The pressure would kill you instantly. It’s a terrible place! Why bother at all? First and foremost, Venus is almost as big as Earth and the surface gravity is 90% from the earth. Surface gravity is a big problem with the colonization of the solar system, because long stays in places with low gravity are likely to be harmful to health.
The size of Venus means that it may be the second largest habitat in the solar system. A new home for billions of people and billions of animals, with wild forests, blue skies and oceans, truly terraformed, Venus may be the most pleasant place to live in the solar system after Earth.
Although we cannot terraform Venus today, a more motivated future version of humanity can embark on this project. It will take generations to complete, and that will be great challenge – as the construction of the pyramids in Egypt for our distant ancestors. But it’s not the first time when a person has embarked on a project longer than a human life.
Come on! Let’s get started! Before we start anything else, we need to cool Venus and remove the gases in its extremely heavy atmosphere. As we mentioned, there are a lot of gases. About 465 billion (with 15 zeros) tons.
How are we going to make it? There are several options. We can create huge solar collectors, power array of laser beams that do not heat up the atmosphere enough to explode in space. But we would need thousands of times more energy than humanity produces right now, and it will still take thousands of years to remove the atmosphere. We can also “swallow” the atmosphere with chemistry.
Let’s connect CO2 in different compounds through chemical reactions. We can dig up elements like Mercury’s calcium and magnesium and launch them to Venus with the help of electromagnetic catapults: like rails that make rockets unnecessary for small planets. Metals can be combined to bind CO2 in different carbonates generally forever. But scale makes this impractical. We will need hundreds of billions of tons of material, to absorb CO2 like that.
A bit like a waste of raw materials, and may take too long.
An equally crazy idea that might actually work is to cast a shadow on Venus. Literally! By building a huge mirror to emit sunlight and just freeze the atmosphere. The mirror should not be complicated or heavy, just a very thin foil with little structural support.
Building such a large flat surface so close to the sun is more like a solar canvas that will be pushed out of place. So instead of a round object, the mirror will be composed of many parts. Annular slats of sloping mirrors that reflect sunlight from one to another. They can be angled, reflecting light from mirror to mirror until it is reflected back – balancing forces and keeping the system in place After a few years, we install the infrastructure and things start slowly, then escalate.
For the first few decades, the atmosphere slowly cooled, but remained dense and deadly.
While, after about 60 years, it reaches a critical temperature of 31 ° C. Suddenly, on Venus The Great Flood begins because CO2 condenses at this pressure and begins to fall. constant rainstorms of incredible scale last 30 years. The pressure and the temperature suddenly begins to drop simultaneously. After almost a century, the puddles turned in lakes and oceans.
The surface temperature is now -56 ° C and the pressure has dropped to only 7 times ground pressure. Finally, at an unpleasant -81 °, the oceans of CO2 begin to freeze and the precipitation becomes snowy. Now Venus is frozen, covered with oceans, hard as stone, and giant glaciers of CO2. The rest of the atmosphere is mostly nitrogen, with about 3 times the pressure on the earth’s surface. You can walk on Venus, if you don’t mind freezing and suffocating.
But frozen CO2 remains a problem. Sooner or later we will want to warm the planet, but if we do, it will evaporate and fill the atmosphere again.
We have to stop this somehow. One way is to simply cover everything with cheap plastic insolation and cover it with ground rocks from Venus and water oceans. But some planetary scientists would be stressed by to build a new planet with such a time bomb.
Several volcanoes at the wrong time they can melt a lot of CO2 at once and destroy all our work. Another obvious solution is to launch everything into space and collect it in a small moon for future storage and use. With electromagnetic catapults instead of missiles, we can to increase efficiency, but moving all this mass will be an intense challenge, which will take some time. Whatever we do with the atmosphere, we need water to continue. We can take it from ice moons.
Europe, one of Jupiter’s moons, has twice as much water as Earth’s oceans. But catching the moon and transporting it through the solar system is not easy at all. Instead, it may be easier to cut pieces of ice from Europe with multiple drones and launch them to Venus with more of these electromagnetic catapults.
Tethers can us save a lot of effort and energy here. We made a whole video about how they work, but in general, they are like slingshots that can take a load at both ends.
In Europe, they do most of the work of throwing ice at Venus. The ice is caught from the tetras of Venus, which lower it slightly into the atmosphere, where it falls like snow. In exchange, the theaters of Venus can capture frozen CO2 fired from below and accelerate it. in orbit. So we can even remove unnecessary nitrogen and yes reduce the atmospheric pressure even more.
After decades or centuries, Venus is covered by a nice, shallow frozen ocean, several hundred meters deep. It will look completely different compared to today. They have formed several continents and many islands. Hey, this is starting to look like our planet! Now begins the last and most glorious phase of terraforming: The creation of an atmosphere, breathable, and add life.
We need light first, however, and we need to warm the planet again. The days of Venus are 2802 hours long. More than 116 days on Earth.
If we just remove the mirrors, we will bake half the planet. Even without the massive atmosphere, the temperature will rise unbearable.
The easiest way to create a daily cycle and release energy again, has a new set of mirrors to illuminate the continents and melt the oceans. This will allow us to fully control how much energy goes where. Now the atmosphere is made up mainly of nitrogen, and oxygen is generally lacking.
Therefore, the first the inhabitants of Venus are likely to be billions of cyanobacteria that can photosynthesize and to produce oxygen. We know that they can quickly change the atmosphere of a planet, because billions of years ago, they must have been responsible for transforming the poisonous atmosphere of the young Earth in an atmosphere with enough oxygen for a more complex fauna.
But not only that – cyanobacteria can take nitrogen from the atmosphere and turn it into nutrients to be used by living beings. They will fertilize the dead ocean water, preparing it for more complex organisms. On land, the colonists will have to grind part of the old surface of Venus, to create a soil on which to grow flora that absorbs nitrogen. Finally, billions of trees they create large forests and cover large parts of the continents. Venus turns green!
First the oceans, then the land. We can accelerate this by lowering CO2 strategically, to help plants and cyanobacteria. With the mirrors in orbit we can lower an additional one daylight to the areas where plants grow to keep them active for most of the day.
We may not do this with the plants and animals we know. With the knowledge of genetic engineering that we will have then, and with our understanding of how life works, we can simply recreate life as we need it.
After all, it will take several thousand years to make the atmosphere breathable for man. In the meantime, you can walk around without anything more than ordinary clothes and oxygen mask. Settlers will be able to enjoy a whole new planet full of resources and bathed in sunlight.
They may be thinking of new uses for frozen carbon dioxide and nitrogen in orbit above them. Industrial processes, rocket fuel, maybe even the terraforming of another planet, such as little Mars.
Now, Venus is completely terraformed. Animals live in vast ecosystems. Cities are being built. Billions of settlers and their peers make this world their home. They will see pictures from the past.
How Venus was once the most hostile planet around. How hundreds of years we froze Hell and carried the oceans, and how we waited a few thousand more years to we can breathe freely. It will be hard to believe. Well, fine. Maybe it’s not so easy to terraform Venus after all, and a lot of things are needed not to be confused in order for this future to come true.
But it is possible with technology that is within reach motivated and slightly more advanced humanity with ambition for a future in space. The only thing that stops us is our imagination. And at least that’s the limit, which is easy to cross. [This video was sponsored by Skillshare].
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