Venus, the second planet from the sun, sometimes referred to as ‘Earth’s sister planet,’ holds a special place in the realm of astronomy. With similarities in size, mass, and overall geology, Venus has long been a subject of great interest to scientists and researchers.
For decades, the idea of terraforming Venus for human habitation has been floated around among the scientific community. Though the harsh, unforgiving environment of Venus – including surface temperatures of over 900 degrees Fahrenheit and a thick, acid-heavy atmosphere – would present significant challenges, recent breakthroughs in planetary exploration have given humanity renewed hope for the possibility of someday living on our neighboring planet.
One of the key developments in our understanding of Venus has been the discovery of potential microbial life. A team of researchers led by Cardiff University’s Dr. Jane Greaves announced in September of 2020 the detection of phosphine, a possible biomarker gas. This discovery, while not conclusive evidence of life, has sparked a renewed interest in studying Venus and its potential to support life – either indigenous or terraformed.
In addition to the possibility of microbial life, scientists have also found evidence of water on Venus. Originally suspected to be located in the planet’s atmosphere, recent discoveries have shown that liquid water might actually exist on Venus’s surface. Though in small quantities, this discovery has huge implications for future human habitation projects, as access to water is a critical component of sustaining human life.
Another significant milestone in Venus exploration has been the successful launch of several new missions specifically designed to study the planet’s environment and geology. NASA’s Discovery Program, created in 1992, has funded several Venus-focused missions, including the DAVINCI+ and VERITAS programs, both set to launch in the late 2020s. These missions will feature innovative new technologies – such as a balloon probe that can sample Venus’s atmosphere and radar that can penetrate its dense cloud cover – that promise to deliver new insights into the planet’s environment and composition.
While terraforming Venus remains a lofty goal for the distant future, these latest developments in planetary exploration have given scientists and researchers hope for the potential of humanity’s expansion beyond Earth. With continued advancements in technology and our understanding of Venus, it seems that living on ‘Earth’s sister planet’ may not be so farfetched after all.