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It must be very dark and hot on the surface of Venus, but my humans want to change that and make a Venusian colony. The problem? The extremely thick atmosphere would make it problematic to say the least. There would be a contest between heat and atmospheric pressure to see who can do the colonists in first. The colonists solution? Send atmospheric drainage ships into orbit around Venus and extend a giant robotic Proboscis into the Venusian atmosphere.

The gas from the atmosphere will be drained into massive "Drainage Ships" that will be sent to Mars to add some of the atmosphere to it. The rest will be sent away, out of the Solar System. Since Venus is in inner fringes of the habitable zone of our system we can now place a permanent colony on Venus.

Is this realistic? How could I make it more realistic?

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  • $\begingroup$ Why would you want to send carbon dioxide to Mars? $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Apr 10 '15 at 14:07
  • $\begingroup$ Please select a different planet, Venus is too hostile for any life. The thick CO2 rich atmosphere traps infrared radiations emitted from its rocky surface causing sulfur, fluorine and chlorine to release from rocks and combined with other elements to form acidic vapors. Since Venus is 30% closer to Sun, the solar winds blew away the hydrogen layer thus there is no water which is essential for life. $\endgroup$ – user6760 Apr 10 '15 at 14:13
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    $\begingroup$ Terraforming Venus has been a subject of much speculation, discussion, and research, for the past 50+ years. $\endgroup$ – Seth Apr 10 '15 at 14:45
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    $\begingroup$ Obligatory mention that the upper atmosphere of Venus is actually quite pleasant by Earth standards. Just don't live on the ground, live in floating cities. $\endgroup$ – GrandmasterB Apr 10 '15 at 17:16
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    $\begingroup$ Not worthy of an answer, but why Mars and outer solar system? The effort level to migrate out of solar system (or mars for that matter) seems to be larger than the effort to drain the atmosphere of venus in the first place. Whats wrong with sending it into the sun or just dumping it into space? $\endgroup$ – Twelfth Apr 10 '15 at 19:39
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Venus is a great place for a colony as long as you don't put it on the surface. About 50 km up the atmospheric pressure is the same as that at earth's at sea level. The temperature at that height there is like the south of France. As a bonus on Venus Air (the stuff we breath) is a lifting gas. Because of the surface albedo solar panels work as well on the bottom and top of your balloon.

There is also a fantastic amount of carbon for making plants and carbon-based tech. The water problem at least for a limited colony could be solved by acid harvesting H+ for the taking.

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I proposed something like this in another question, but it might work better here.

Put something in orbit between the sun and Venus to cut down on the amount of sunlight. If you can block it completely, then the atmosphere would basically freeze, and you'd be able to scoop it up or seal it away.

The original suggestion was for some kind of soletta, kind of a giant solar umbrella made from solar sail material, but it would have to be very very big. Other ways that might work would be to ring the planet with a dust cloud, or possibly a cloud of small solar sail satellites, which would reflect the solar radiation and heat away. They could even collect the energy and beam it down to the planet to power the teraforming. When the work is done, you remove some of the satellites/cloud to bring the temperature up to the point you want it, while still keeping it cooler and cutting down on the radiation.

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The atmosphere of Venus is a nasty place. The surface is 900 degrees Fahrenheit at 100 atmospheres of pressure. The upper atmosphere has constant winds exceeding 200 mph and sulfuric acid clouds. The major constituent is carbon dioxide, with trace amounts of noble gases, water vapor, and corrosive sulfur-containing compounds. Ingesting this stuff into your spaceship would probably be a bad idea, as would dumping it on Mars.

Note also that removing the thick clouds (again, make of friggin' acid) would expose the surface to intense solar radiation, as Venus's magnetic field is much weaker than Earth's; probably also a bad idea.

(Side note: there would be no contest between temperature and pressure. The later Soviet Venera probes were all done in by the high temperature. It is easy to build something that can withstand thousands of atmospheres of pressure [think of deep-diving submarines], but much harder to make something that can survive a bath in molten lead [and even higher temperatures].)

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    $\begingroup$ -1. While all this is true, it does not answer the question "how to render Venus semi-habitable," or specifically address the "drainage ships" idea. $\endgroup$ – user243 Apr 10 '15 at 20:06
  • $\begingroup$ @JonofAllTrades tl;dr, my answer is you couldn't/wouldn't want to try and make Venus habitable. As for the 'proboscis' idea, I said, "ingesting this stuff [the atmosphere] into your spaceship would probably be a bad idea." $\endgroup$ – 2012rcampion Apr 10 '15 at 21:47
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The only realistic way of making Venus more habitable is to add some microbes that can transform carbon dioxide to carbon and oxygen in solid or liquid form and to gaseous oxygen, in a process similar to photosynthesis. The microbes will have to live approximately 5 km up in the atmosphere, where temperature and pressure is similar to what it is on the Earth's surface. The produced oxygen has to combine with hydrogen, from the solar wind, to form water, maybe catalyzed in the microbes. Organic compounds will snow or rain down on the surface. The atmosphere will thus decrease in volume and the surface temperature will drop due to lower pressure at the surface. At some point the temperature will drop enough to make the water vapor condense and liquid water on the surface will be present for life.

The biggest problems seems initially to be shortage of water and shortage of hydrogen. This will make the process take long time.

A similar process once took place on Earth and it lasted hundreds of millions of years.

The Outer Space Treaty from 1967 is an international agreements against migrating life to other planets. This agreement first needs to be abandoned, or the space vessel could be sent up from a non participatory state.

Sending a capsule with such bacteria to Venus is not a demanding task. A small group of people can do it.

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Exporting the carbon dioxide from the Venusian atmosphere is not the most effective way of terraforming the planet. It isn't realistic. This answer offers an alternative.

Fortunately, if you have this level of space technology there are better options. What you need to do is a three step process.

First, convert atmospheric CO2 into carbonate rocks. Most of Earth's CO2 is locked up in the form of carbonate rocks. To do this, just add water, Actually a ginormous amount of water. Fortunately, the solar system is chock-a-block with astronomical bodies full of water. Europa, Ganymede, Enceladus, and, possibly, even the dwarf planet Pluto. Instead of using Drainage ships to capture the Venusian atmosphere, use similar sized interplanetary vessels to import the equivalent of the Earth's oceans from Europa, Ganymede and etc. Dump the water in Venus' atmosphere and allow geochemistry to take its course. Thus, converting atmospheric CO2 into carbonate rocks.

Secondly, build a system of solettes as discussed in AndyD273's answer, to block out excess insolation (basically, sunlight) and allow the planet to cool down to acceptable temperatures. Once human settlers are living on an eventually habitable Venus this can be modulated down to Earthlike levels of solar radiation.

Thirdly, introduce photosynthetic organisms into the Venusian oceans and seas. These will convert the remaining CO2 into an oxygenated atmosphere. The original proposal by Carl Sagan, using algae, is now regarded as dubious science. However, a technological civilization capable of terraforming Venus will have more advanced biotechnology and will be capable of producing suitable organisms to do the job.

While the three-step process of terraforming is scientifically plausible, it should come with the following product warning.

Terraforming planets to human levels of habitability will usually geologically long periods of time.

This does mean millions of years. It's really a problem of scale. Easy to overlook the amount of change required on a planetary scale to terraform a planet. Don't be in a hurry to pack your bags for a move to Venus in the near future.

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  • $\begingroup$ Are you sure there's enough calcium? According to this you need to add 4 times Vesta's mass in calcium and magnesium to do the job. $\endgroup$ – Spencer Sep 21 at 16:21
  • $\begingroup$ @Spencer Yes. That only refers to external sources. According to the same article, there is in the planet itself, see paragraphs two to four, but it will be extremely slow. It can be speeded up by turning over the surface material. Terraforming much harder than is generally realized, $\endgroup$ – a4android Sep 21 at 23:44
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How about using funnel in the atmosphere leaked to outer space. Wouldn't that drain the poisonous atmosphere? Space is the ultimate vacuum ya?

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  • $\begingroup$ How would this 'funnel' work? How would it stop the planet's gravity simply pulling the gasses back into the atmosphere? $\endgroup$ – KillingTime Sep 21 at 8:19
  • $\begingroup$ Could it be put in a geosynchronous orbit just like a satellite? $\endgroup$ – Will Sep 21 at 8:33
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    $\begingroup$ This is your idea, you have to come up with the answers. How are you going to maintain a "geosynchronous orbit just like a satellite" when the lower end of the funnel has to be within the atmosphere (and this therefore subject to atmospheric drag)? $\endgroup$ – KillingTime Sep 21 at 8:59
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    $\begingroup$ I have to agree. This is your idea, it's your responsibility to tell us how it works. Otherwise, I'm afraid this isn't an answer. $\endgroup$ – F1Krazy Sep 21 at 9:01
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    $\begingroup$ I think you've misunderstood the forces that keep an atmosphere on a planet. @F1Krazy, it is an answer, as it stands it's either incomplete or incorrect, but that doesn't alone make it delete-worthy. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Sep 21 at 16:06

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