Terraforming Venus: An Alternative Look At Terraforming

After exploring terraforming on Mars and finding a good amount of information on Venus in the process, I thought it would be interesting to explore the prospects of terraforming Venus in the hopes of one day making it habitable.

As I mentioned in my previous blog, Carl Sagan published an article in 1961 advocating for seeding Venus’s atmosphere with algae to begin converting the CO2 in the atmosphere into oxygen. Unfortunately, Sagan’s idea is close to impossible because Venus’s atmosphere could not support the life of algae. If algae is out (at least as a first step), then how would you go about making Venus a habitable planet?

Want To Live On Venus? Here’s What You Are Up Against.

The major challenge with Venus is its atmosphere. When considering how to terraform Mars, the conversation centers around how to create a habitable atmosphere. However, Venus has plenty of atmosphere – the problem is Venus’s atmosphere wants to kill us. Venus has a surface temperature of about 880 degrees Fahrenheit), largely thanks to an atmosphere that is about 90 times thicker than ours. In fact, the air on Venus is one-tenth as thick as water, and the atmospheric pressure on Venus is equivalent to the pressure felt about 1 km beneath the ocean’s surface.

How Do We Fix…All Of That?

One theory is to build an enormous solar shade to cool the planet down. The effect of such a shade would cool the planet significantly, and by some estimations, the cooling would be so significant that a large portion of the CO2 in the atmosphere would condense on the surface. While a solar shade is not a single solution, if we were able to gather the resources to effectively block sunlight from reaching the planet, the resulting cooling could make the planet workable.

The next step is to introduce compounds that would make create a breathable atmosphere. If the solar shade wasn’t complicated enough, then here is a bigger challenge. Venus has virtually no oxygen in its atmosphere, so we would need to introduce a massive amount of compounds to create a chemical reaction that yields water and oxygen across the entire planet.

Thankfully, British scientist Paul Birch published an article in 1991 titled “Terraforming Venus Quickly.” The title makes it sound easy, right? Ok, so all we have to do is blast the planet with hydrogen, which would react with the CO2 in the atmosphere to form graphite and water, which would then create the planet’s oceans. Easy, right?

Well…with the amount of Hydrogen needed, we would have to import it from one of the gas giants. However, if we can figure out how to efficiently transport Hydrogen from Jupiter to Venus, then Birch’s theory could prove successful in creating ocean water and further cooling the planet.

After cooling the planet and forming oceans, Carl Sagan’s theory becomes more plausible. The introduction of algae could see the planet with the oxygen needed to create a breathable atmosphere, and the algae themselves would supply a large amount of organic material to the planet.

Conclusion

There you have it. Venus is now habitable, and we are accepting tickets for flights bound to Venus City. Ok, that may not be for a while. In fact, it may never happen. However, scientists have put a significant amount of thought into how a magnificent feat like transforming Venus into a livable planet could be accomplished. Interested in learning more? This article has many more details on the theory of behind terraforming Venus.

Image Credit: JS Pailly – Video Credit: Fraser Cain

4 thoughts on “Terraforming Venus: An Alternative Look At Terraforming

  1. This blog is pretty interesting.It introduces the challenge of terraforming on Mars and Venus and applies a somehow novel but crazy measure: blast the planet with hydrogen that would react with the CO2 in the atmosphere to form graphite and water.

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  2. Venus is pretty hydrogen poor, but we could extract some hydrogen from the sulfuric acid clouds. I’m guessing it’s not enough to terraform the whole planet, but it would at least reduce the amount that needs to be hauled in from the outer Solar System.

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  3. Glad you both enjoyed the post. And although the sulfuric acid clouds would not have enough hydrogen to form planetary oceans, stripping the Hydrogen out of the ocean would be a good step to making the planet more habitable (sulfuric acid clouds are definitely not ideal…)

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  4. Great post! A lot of points here I’d never considered. In addition to all of the physical challenges with terraforming a new planet there are always the logistic problems of how we could get an international coalition to finance such an endeavor. That may be the more difficult question to answer.

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