What if we went wrong? For now, all the routes of space exploration lead to Mars. NASA wants to ask an astronaut in 2033, the Chinese send their probes in the next years and SpaceX already promises to colonize. Yet, Venus is closer to the Earth, more like her, and could have sheltered life too. NASA researchers are even seriously considering the possibility of building a colony, suspended at 50 km altitude in the Venusian clouds. To unravel mysteries and fantasies, we left to explore our underestimated neighbor with the astrophysicist Pierre Drossart.
Director of research at the CNRS, the Laboratory of Space Studies and Instrumentation in Astrophysics (LESIA) of the Paris Observatory, Pierre Drossart is particularly a specialist in the atmosphere of planets. He studied Venus closely by participating in the mission of the European Space Agency Venus Express, which flew over the planet between 2006 and 2014.
Thanks to Venus Express and the many probes that preceded it, Soviet and American, we know today that Venus had a strong volcanic activity, that it has its mountain ranges and its "continents", it was possible to observe its clouds of sulfuric acid, the "super rotation" of its atmosphere and it is assumed that 3 billion years ago an ocean of water could have existed, lapping for hundreds of millions of years in a temperate climate close to ours.
But why did these mild conditions turn to hell, turning the surface of Venus furnace over 450 ° C under an overwhelming pressure 90 times stronger than at home, while the Earth remained welcoming for life? At altitude, where the pressure and the temperature become again comparable to terrestrial conditions, could micro-organisms still swarm in the clouds of Venus today? And could humans find there favorable conditions to build a sustainable colony, a true city of clouds? Pierre Drossart answers our questions, knowingly dosing prudence and enthusiasm and advising us to keep our feet on Earth, in every sense of the word.
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Generic by Felipe Piccinini