Wednesday, October 7, 2009

"Russia plots return to Venus"-BBC article title

Look that one up and give it a read.

Now THAT is a space mission that I really am able to support.

The reason I want to blog about it, just quickly, is because reading the BBC article, young people who don't remember the time before the Russians solved the mystery of Venus are missing out on one of the really exciting historic space developments of the time.

Because the planet is shrouded in clouds, it has been a total mystery. It was very cool growing up as a kid and sharing with the scientists the genuine wonder of what the atmosphere and surface of Venus was like. The remote sensing was very primitive, so scientists in those early days had no clue if Venus was shrouded in water or dry land, or a mix, and what the atmosphere was like, or the temperatures. People were of course curious about signs of possible life, but they weren't as fruitcake about it as they are today.

So the Russians really pioneered a series of groundbreaking space probes to find out what at all was going on with the planet Venus, and we all eagerly awaited any results after each mission. It was a very cool time for space exploration. You can then imagine how bizarre it was to find it was all land, no water, and in fact so hot that metal is molten and none of the spacecraft can survive for more than an hour!

This is why I think the Russians had a fantastic piece of groundbreaking space history with their classic Venera etc. programs and would welcome their returning to Venus and find out more about it. That is the kind of space priority we need, globally. Why? Well, think about it. One tends to find out more about life (including its preciousness) when one explores extreme conditions, such as the heat of Venus plus one tends to make great engineering strides when one must design spacecraft for such challenging conditions. And, of course, learning more about the physics, chemistry, geography, meteorology etc of Venus adds vastly to overall science knowledge and ultimately wisdom. It's not agenda driven "research," but good open minded fact based research, with very cool engineering challenges, which could pay off also on earth as humans need to design ways out of possible extreme situations and conditions. So I applaud the Russians thinking about returning to what was a fantastic solo initiative of theirs many years ago. I hope other countries support them as well. And, as I've said, I really think that the USA space program must focus more on studying the moon and the engineering issues that again, are dual purpose, of helping establish scientific stations on the moon, but also help with developing rational fact based engineering knowledge for problems here on earth.