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NASA Explores Possibility of Visit to Venus

Three large meteorite impact craters are seen in this image of the Lavinia region on Venus. Situated in a region of fractured plains, the craters show many features typical of meteorite impact craters, including rough (bright) material around the rim, ter

Although closer to Earth than Mars, Venus was never considered as a destination for astronauts due to its proximity to the sun and the consequently hellish conditions on the planet.

However, a group of NASA scientists says it may actually be easier to visit Venus than Mars, as long as astronauts do not land on the surface but hover above it.

The planet's 500 degrees Celsius surface is hot enough to melt lead and its crushing atmospheric pressure is nearly 100 times greater than on earth. But the scientists say conditions are much more Earth-like just 50 kilometers up, where the temperature is around 75 degrees Celsius, the gravity is slightly lower than on Earth, and the pressure is about the same.

According to the concept, astronauts would orbit through the atmosphere in a gondola under a 130-meter long solar-powered airship, or dirigible, filled with helium, conducting science observations and experiments. The team envisions that, one day, there could be a permanent human presence in a floating city.

The scientists point to a number of advantages of a Venus mission — with 240 percent more solar power than arrives on Mars, batteries would charge more quickly, the atmosphere offers much more protection from radiation, and a mission to Venus would take 440 days, including a 30-day stay, while a trip to Mars would take between 650 and 900 days.

As for the reasons for the visit, scientists say they are identical to the reasons to go to Mars — exploring and learning about its alien world as well as gaining more experience in deep-space missions.