Image credit: NASA Langley/Advanced Concepts Laboratory

A crewed mission to Venus while en route to the Red Planet can enable valuable tele-operated science due to human nearness to that cloud-veiled world.

That’s the output from a study report — Meeting with the Goddess: Notes from the First Symposium on Venus Science Enabled by Human Proximity — prepared for the W. M. Keck Institute for Space Studies.

Last July, the Institute hosted a symposium entitled “Science Enabled by Human Proximity to Venus.” It was convened to explore the potential science that could be harvested by human mission fly-bys of Venus while en route to Mars and rationales for a dedicated human mission to Venus.

Image credit: Gordon Squires, Caltech/IPAC

Apollo 8-style

“The compelling narrative of exploration combines planetary science at Venus, the search for life in its clouds, and an encounter with our sister planet that may shed light on our future climate,” says the report.

Crewed expeditions to Venus are a “modern analog to Apollo 8, but on the scale of the inner solar system,” adds the report. In 1968, Apollo 8 was the first crewed spacecraft to successfully orbit the Moon and return to Earth.

Venus “back-flip”

The study participants revealed an “appealing new mission option” that combines the simplicity of a fly-by mission with a longer dwell time in the vicinity of Venus to enable tele-operated Venus science. That trajectory is dubbed the Venus “back-flip,” one that provides two fly-bys of Venus.

Venus back-flip double fly-by trajectory from the perspective of Venus (long duration over Southern hemisphere).
Credit: W. M. Keck Institute for Space Studies

A human Venus mission can last roughly half as long as a human Mars mission, while still subjecting the crew to similar environments, the report states.

“Thus, such a human Venus mission affords the ability to close knowledge gaps and buttress confidence in technology, concept of operations, and human adaptability before setting out on a Mars expedition. Symposium participants argued that it would be from confidence gained in a crewed Venus fly-by mission that we would have the confidence to send humans to Mars.”

Unexplored world

Venus is “Venera Incognito,” the study observes, “a vast, almost completely unexplored world of great variety, mystery, and beauty, with an area of unknown lands several times the land area of Earth.”

Tele-operated assets, atmospheric skimmers, landed probes, cloud flying craft and rovers could scrutinize Venus, top to bottom.

Image Credit: Johns
Hopkins APL/Caleb Heidel

For instance, as the coolest and lowest-pressure region on the surface of Venus, Maxwell Montes is an ideal location for a long-lived rover to explore for roughly a week.

Similarly, a Venus airplane could fly into the planet’s night side, both within and below the planet’s cloud deck.

Endless wonderland

The report concludes that there is every reason to believe that “Venus will be an endless wonderland of beguiling and mysterious vistas and formations.”

Given tele-operated exploration, “the public – perhaps following along at home with their own VR enabled headsets — can come along for the ride and join in the discovery and the fascination.”

To read the full report — Meeting with the Goddess: Notes from the First Symposium on Venus Science Enabled by Human Proximity – go to:

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