Terraform Venus: Leaving the Earth and Moving Into Space Has Been a Romantic Idea Since Ancient Times. Sooner or later, it will be necessary for the survival of the human race.
What if we turned one of the harshest and most dangerous places in the solar system into a colony? Not a city in the clouds, but a veritable second Earth?
That might be easier than you think. Venus is the hottest planet in the solar system. Its surface temperature is 460 degrees Celsius. That’s enough to melt lead. This is due to the strongest greenhouse effect in the solar system. CO2 captures heat easily. Just an increase from 0.03% to 0.04% in the Earth’s atmosphere, and we’re experiencing global warming right now.
The Venusian atmosphere is 97% CO2. Atmospheric density is 93 times that of Earth. Standing on the surface of Venus would be like diving to a depth of 900 meters. The pressure would kill you instantly. It’s a terrifying place.
Why Should We Bother Visiting Venus?
Gravity is a serious issue when migrating to the solar system, and prolonged low gravity is bad for your health.
Size wise, Venus could be the second largest habitable planet in our solar system. It will be a new home for billions of humans and trillions of animals. It has oceans, lush forests, and beautiful skies. Now, that’s a tall order. But with the ambition of future humans, it can be done.
It will take several generations to complete, and it will be a great challenge. Just as our ancestors did with the Great Pyramid.
Let’s just cool Venus down and remove the gas from its extremely heavy atmosphere. The volume is enormous, about 46.5 kilotons.
How do we remove it? There are several options.
We could use lasers from a giant solar thermal collector to heat the atmosphere and release it into space.
But that would require thousands of times the energy production capacity of the current human race, and it would take thousands of years to remove the atmosphere.
The other way is to sequester the atmosphere, to chemically react the CO2 into different compounds.
We’ll mine the Ca and Mg on Mercury and launch them via mass driver to Venus. It’s a motorized acceleration path that eliminates the need for rockets. The delivered elements would combine with the CO2 and be fixed as carbonates.
But not on a practical scale.
This method would require hundreds of billions of tons of material. It seems like a waste of material, and it would take too long.
An equally crazy idea is to put Venus in the shade.
Build a giant mirror to block out the sun and freeze the atmosphere. The mirror doesn’t have to be complex or huge.
If we make a huge flat surface near the sun, it will act as a solar sail and shift our position. It should be made of many parts, not just one circular object.
Multiple circular, angled mirrors can be placed to reflect sunlight back at each other. The mirrors are angled so that they reflect one after another until they send the light out the back. This balances the forces of front and back and holds them in position.
After a few years of setting up, things start slowly and then accelerate. For the first few decades, the atmosphere cools slowly, but remains too dense to be viable.
Then, after about 60 years, it reaches a critical temperature of 31 degrees Celsius.
Suddenly, the floodgates open. The CO2 liquefies under pressure and begins to rain down. The storm continues throughout Venus for 30 years. Suddenly, the pressure and temperature begin to drop simultaneously.
For about a century, the puddles became lakes and oceans. The surface temperature drops to -56 degrees Celsius, and the atmospheric pressure drops to seven times that on Earth.
When the temperature reaches -81 degrees Celsius, the ocean of CO2 begins to freeze and rain turns to snow.
Thus, Venus freezes and is covered with rocky oceans and huge CO2 glaciers. What’s left of the atmosphere is mostly nitrogen, at about three times the pressure of Earth.
Can Venus be Habitable?
But there’s a bit of a problem with frozen CO2.
Eventually, when Venus heats up, the CO2 ice will melt and fill the atmosphere again.
So we need a workaround to Terraform Venus.
One way is to cover the CO2 ocean with cheap plastic insulation and then cover it with Venusian rocks and water.
But some planetary scientists would be very opposed to building a planet with a ticking time bomb. A few ill-advised eruptions and all the CO2 would leach out at once, and everything would be ruined.
The other obvious solution is to eject all the frozen CO2 and stockpile it on a small moon. Mass drivers, not rockets, would be more efficient. Still, moving all that mass is a pretty tough challenge, and one that will take some time to solve.
In addition to handling the atmosphere, to terraform Venus we’ll need water, which we can get from the icy moons.
Jupiter’s moon, Europa, has twice as much water as Earth’s oceans.
Now, capturing a moon and moving it through the solar system is not easy.
It might be easier to cut through the ice on Europa with a formation of construction drones and shoot it into Venus with a mass driver.
Almost the entire process of getting the ice to Venus takes place on Europa.
When the ice hits the Venusian tether, it’s gently dropped into the atmosphere and falls as snow.
Instead, the Venusian tether catches the launched CO2 ice and accelerates it into orbit.
Likewise, the extra nitrogen could be removed, further reducing the atmospheric pressure.
In a few decades to a few hundred years, Venus will be covered by a shallow frozen sea, several hundred meters deep.
Several continents and countless islands will have formed, and it will look a little like Earth.
Now the final and most spectacular phase begins.
The atmosphere will be breathable, and life will begin. First, we need to reheat Venus with light.
A Venusian day is 2,802 hours, which is 116 days longer than Earth’s. So if we just remove the giant mirror, half of Venus will burn up.
Even if we clear the atmospheric pressure, the temperature alone is unsustainable.
The easiest way to create a day/night cycle on Venus
The easiest way to bring in energy is to use another mirror to illuminate the continents and melt the oceans.
This would give us complete control over the amount of energy and where it goes.
At this point, the atmosphere is mostly nitrogen, basically no oxygen. So the first inhabitants would be a large number of cyanobacteria.
Because they can release oxygen through photosynthesis. We can expect rapid changes in the atmosphere.
They’re thought to have brought oxygen to the Earth’s toxic atmosphere billions of years ago, helping animals to thrive.
In addition, cyanobacteria can fix atmospheric nitrogen and convert it into nutrients that organisms can use. Thus, the oceans become nutrient rich and ready for more complex life.
On land, we need to grind down the surface to create soil for nitrogen-fixing plants.
Eventually, billions of trees will form a great forest that will cover most of the continent.
Venus will Turn Green
To pick up the pace, CO2 will be strategically released to feed plants and cyanobacteria.
Plant-covered areas will receive additional sunlight from orbital mirrors, and plants will spend their days actively growing.
It may not have to be existing plants and animals.
As genetic engineering matures, our understanding of heredity and life increases. We may be able to create life as we need it to Terraform Venus.
It will take thousands of years in total to create an atmosphere in which humans can breathe.
The colonists will enjoy a new planet that is vast, resourceful, and sun-kissed.
They might even come up with new uses for the massive amounts of CO2 ice and nitrogen they’ve sequestered in space:
- Industrial use
- rocket fuel
- terraforming of small planets like Mars
Billions of settlers and their descendants will call this planet home.
They will see images of the past. They’ll see images of the past, of Venus as the harshest of planets.
Terraforming Venus is Not Going to be Easy.
It’ll take a lot of success for this future to become a reality. But it’s possible.
It’s a technology that’s within the reach of a slightly more advanced, space-faring human race.