Revisiting A Cloud City On Venus

The subject of a "Cloud City" floating high in the Venusian atmosphere has been a hot topic of discussion on Selenian Boondocks, which founder Jonathan Goff describes as "a blog I founded to discuss space politics, policy, technology, business, and space settlement."


(A 'Cloud City' floats above Venus)

One of the biggest problems with a lunar or Martian colony is that an astronaut’s bones and muscles deteriorate in low gravity. No one knows yet how much gravity a human needs to prevent deterioration, but Venus's gravity is the closest to Earth's, at about 9/10ths. Mars only has a third of the gravity that the Earth does, while the moon has a mere sixth.

Atmospheric pressure is also crucial. Think of the difference between jabbing a car tire and letting air out of a half-inflated balloon. Gases seek equilibrium. Since there's barely any atmosphere on the moon or Mars, a rip in the hull of an enclosed human habitat would suck oxygen out at tremendous force. Thirty miles above Venus, it would merely seep out. This also means a Venutian cloud colony wouldn't need as much reinforcement.

A sphere with titanium skin 0.04" thick would be able to survive reentry and float a couple of miles above the surface.

Technovelgy readers may recall my earlier 2008 article on this topic (Cloud City on Venus?), which details some of writer/scientist Geoffrey Landis' work on the topic.

SF fans are all lusting over the idea of a real-life Cloud City, as imagined in Star Wars.


(Cloud City above Bespin in Star Wars)

You may recall that Cloud City is an installation on the planet Bespin, first seen in the now-classic 1980 film The Empire Strikes Back. Bespin has a habitable layer from about 150 - 180 kilometers down from space with an oxygen atmosphere and normal pressure.

Update 18-Dec-2016: Take a look at this early reference to the idea of cities floating in the atmosphere of Venus in Fritz Leiber's humorous 1958 short story Bread Overhead!. End update.

From Selenian Boondocks via Citylab. See also Geoffrey Landis' 2003 paper Colonization of Venus.

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