Tuesday, November 6, 2012

What about Venus?

NASA Photo
Mars is getting a lot of attention lately.  Truth be told, Mars has been getting a lot attention for quite some time: landers, rovers, orbiters, and Elon Musk and President Obama want to send people there.  Mars One is creating a reality TV show to send contestants to the surface of Mars!

So what about Earth's "sister" planet?  Where's the love for Venus?  [This question is all the more ironic given that in Roman mythology, Venus was the goddess of love, beauty, sex, and all that.]

Well, I am not going to sit idly and do nothing.  I'm going to start giving Venus more of the attention it sorely deserves!  Here are some of my reasons:
  • Venus is right there every night (well, most nights)!  It's the second-brightest object in the night sky, and its phases can be observed with binoculars.
  • It is the closest-approaching planet to Earth (38 million kilometers at its closest)
  • It is roughly the same size and mass as Earth
  • It has an honest-to-goodness atmosphere
  • It possesses the most similar environment to Earth conditions in the solar system1
  • It may have harbored life in its early days
I've been interested in Venus for quite some time, and have always wanted to dig a little deeper into the subject.  Be careful what you wish for!  I'm currently taking a UND grad course in Astrobiology, and our final assignment is to write a literature review on an astrobiological subject.  I chose Venus, so it's going to be all Venus, all the time for me.

I'll do what I can to share interesting snippets here on the blog as I go, but I also plan to write some topical articles such as:
  • Robotic Missions to Venus: Past, Present
  • Robotic Missions to Venus: Proposed
  • The Case for Human Missions to Venus
  • Venus Facts You Should Know
Check back, I'll try to keep the material coming every week or so for a while.

1. This is not at the surface... it is about 50km up into the Venusian atmosphere.

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