The planet Venus, despite it’s beauty in the night sky, is not a nice place for Earthlings. The surface temperature hovers at a balmy 850 degrees, the atmosphere is largely carbon dioxide with touches of sulfur and carbon monoxide and the clouds are made from sizzling sulfuric acid. Even if all of those problems were somehow survivable, the atmospheric pressure on the surface (pictured, in 1975 image taken by Soviet Venera 13 landing craft) is almost 1,400 pounds per square inch, nearly 100 times greater than on Earth.

Despite all that, a prominent NASA scientist who moonlights as science fiction author has proposed that humans colonize the “Morning Star” planet. Geoffrey A. Landis, author of the Nebula Award-winning novel Mars Crossing believes that the planet could be inhabitable not on the surface, but in floating cloud cities at the edge of Venus’s atmosphere.

According to an article last week on the science web site Next Big Future, “at an altitude of 50 kilometers (31 mi) above Venusian surface, the environment is the most Earth-like in the solar system.”

Air pressure at that height is roughly the same as on Earth’s surface and temperatures range from a livable 32 degrees up to an admittedly warm but still tolerable 122.

The recent movie Elysium centered around a human colony built in the space between the top of Earth’s atmosphere and the moon. The classic Star Wars film The Empire Strikes Back postulated cloud colonies similar to those Landis has envisioned.

Landis has also researched the possibilities of moon colonies and interstellar travel.

As noted by Next Big Future, Landis is not the first theoretician to propose colonizing Venus. In a 1991 paper in the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, Paul Birch outlined a plan that would use a system of mirrors to reflect the sun’s rays off the surface of Venus, bringing surface temperatures down to livable human levels.

SOURCES: Next Big Future, Ultraculture, Wikipedia