What if Venus was Actually Earth Like?

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What if Venus was Actually Earth Like?

Post by Jub » 2020-05-30 12:26am

How would the space race have changed if, as was once thought, Venus had a surface we could survive on with no more protection than we'd need on Earth and yet didn't have so much as a bundle of RNA to be found on it? What would we do with a second Earth just sitting there waiting for us to claim it?

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Re: What if Venus was Actually Earth Like?

Post by Broomstick » 2020-05-30 04:35am

I very much doubt that there would be a breathable atmosphere on Venus without life to generate it. Perhaps enough life for a useful-to-humans atmosphere but nothing very complex?
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Re: What if Venus was Actually Earth Like?

Post by chimericoncogene » 2020-05-30 12:10pm

For simplicity's sake (since we don't really care about the life, just the idea of a habitable Venus), I would suggest it to be panspermia-origin DNA-based life, nothing multicellular. Pretty familiar stuff, clear phylogenetics, nothing weirder than say, a mix of bacteria and archaebacteria. Although questions would be prompted about contamination of Mars and the asteroids.

Fundamentally, O2 will react with everything and get sucked out of the atmosphere; I'm not sure what the state-of-the art of research into early Earth is (I hear the "reducing atmosphere" is in debate), but without life, you ain't getting much O2 in that thing. I have heard of abiogenic O2 in exoplanetology (talking about biosignatures), though, but I can't recall the details. Either way, CO2 concentrations are probably going to be heavier without life actively sucking it out, requiring at least CO2 removal.

Some issues with Venus...

I think a lack of water is responsible for the lack of plate tectonics (various hypotheses for how exactly it works, basically cataclysmic intermittent resurfacing events every few hundred million years is one model), and as I recall, that lack of water is from solar UV stripping hydrogen from water vapor back in the early days of the system.

So... some issues with how this Earth Mk II came about. Also rotation - Venus rotates retrograde, and has a day longer than a year maybe because of tidal locking or friction with the atmosphere. That needs to be changed.

But anyway, once people start dropping probes into Venus, humans will follow suit - probably by the late 70s, possibly earlier, for Cold War reasons alone. The space exploration budget will initially be badly biased towards Venusian exploration - we might not even bother with the Voyagers with a habitable planet next door (but if rockets get cheaper earlier with mass-ish production, the opposite might occur). I expect substantial investment in space programs by all parties, and immediate attempts to declare Venus (which in our model still has no soil, just bacterial mats) a nature preserve for all mankind similar to a warmer version of Antarctica.

Fundamentally, Venus doesn't have much in the way of resources that could be easily shipped back to Earth, or exploited, and might not be farmable. People would start with research stations - largish ones, even - to study the bacterial flora, but otherwise it would be a huge hassle to get to and get off, especially without a moon or some other propellant source in between (ISRU can only go so far when you need an Earth-rocket-sized rocket to get off Venus).

Oh, BTW, if multicellular life evolved from the terrestrial bacterial lines, we have another kettle of fish to think about when plugging numbers into the Fermi Paradox.
Last edited by chimericoncogene on 2020-05-30 12:17pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: What if Venus was Actually Earth Like?

Post by Jub » 2020-05-30 12:13pm

Broomstick wrote:
2020-05-30 04:35am
I very much doubt that there would be a breathable atmosphere on Venus without life to generate it. Perhaps enough life for a useful-to-humans atmosphere but nothing very complex?
I wanted to avoid the bioethics issues that even a simple ecosystem would raise by making it earthlike without any life. I know that raises other issues, but the real question is what does a habitable world close by without any ethical issues around us living there do for the space race.
chimericoncogene wrote:
2020-05-30 12:10pm
For simplicity's sake (since we don't really care about the life, just the idea of a habitable Venus), I would suggest it to be panspermia-origin DNA-based life, nothing multicellular. Pretty familiar stuff, clear phylogenetics, nothing weirder than say, a mix of bacteria and archaebacteria. Although questions would be prompted about contamination of Mars and the asteroids.

Fundamentally, O2 will react with everything and get sucked out of the atmosphere; I'm not sure what the state-of-the art of research into early Earth is (I hear the "reducing atmosphere" is in debate), but without life, you ain't getting much O2 in that thing. I have heard of abiogenic O2 in exoplanetology (talking about biosignatures), though, but I can't recall the details. Either way, CO2 concentrations are probably going to be heavier without life actively sucking it out, requiring at least CO2 removal.

Some issues with Venus...

I think a lack of water is responsible for the lack of plate tectonics (various hypotheses for how exactly it works, basically cataclysmic intermittent resurfacing events every few hundred million years is one model), and as I recall, that lack of water is from solar UV stripping hydrogen from water vapor back in the early days of the system.

So... some issues with how this Earth Mk II came about. Also rotation - Venus rotates retrograde, and has a day longer than a year maybe because of tidal locking or friction with the atmosphere. That needs to be changed.
See above. Assume it's basically Earth 2.0 with liquid water oceans and everything, only it still has the orbit, mass, rotation, etc. of Venus.

I more wanted to ask what an easily colonizable world would do to the space race, orbital manufacturing, etc. Rather than deal with the issues caused by finding life on another world. If it helps, maybe Venus has a rare inorganic means of being Earth-like without life that will end once we introduce enough of a biosphere to keep things habitable on their own.
Last edited by Jub on 2020-05-30 12:20pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: What if Venus was Actually Earth Like?

Post by chimericoncogene » 2020-05-30 12:18pm

Jub wrote:
2020-05-30 12:13pm
Broomstick wrote:
2020-05-30 04:35am
I very much doubt that there would be a breathable atmosphere on Venus without life to generate it. Perhaps enough life for a useful-to-humans atmosphere but nothing very complex?
I wanted to avoid the bioethics issues that even a simple ecosystem would raise by making it earthlike without any life. I know that raises other issues, but the real question is what does a habitable world close by without any ethical issues around us living there do for the space race.
They'd be doing mission planning in 1972. Bioethics would not be as big a deal when the Soviets are readying their EVIL COMMIE VENUS ROCKET while the Americans ready their CAPITALIST ROCKET OF PROFIT!

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Re: What if Venus was Actually Earth Like?

Post by chimericoncogene » 2020-05-30 12:35pm

Jub wrote:
2020-05-30 12:13pm

I more wanted to ask what an easily colonizable world would do to the space race, orbital manufacturing, etc. Rather than deal with the issues caused by finding life on another world. If it helps, maybe Venus has a rare inorganic means of being Earth-like without life that will end once we introduce enough of a biosphere to keep things habitable on their own.
Yes, I know, I edited my comment on Venus's planetary science while you were editing yours to say a few words on how it would affect the Space Race. > :lol:

Fundamentally, it would probably end up as a prize in that race, giving it longer legs. Orbital manufacturing... not much of an impact other than slightly cheaper rockets for space stations and space probes if you get lucky and the US authorizes Apollo-style budgets through 1980 (as per the integrated program plan, but with a tangible goal of a habitable Venus rather than Mars). This Venus has no resources we would want (no soil, no jungles, not even DNA to nab for genetic engineering), and they're stuck at the bottom of a terribly deep gravity well which will need Earth-rocket-sized rockets to get out of. Really tough place to land - a lot harder than Mars because the lander is going to be gargantuan.

To be honest, Jub, the most attractive thing to study would be the local flora. If it doesn't have life on it, the sales pitch for an IPP-Venus is a lot harder to sell.

I advised that you specify "panspermic life", since it eases the bioethics a bit. If it's from Earth to begin with, we don't need to care that much and can treat it like Antarctica.

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Re: What if Venus was Actually Earth Like?

Post by Jub » 2020-05-30 12:56pm

chimericoncogene wrote:
2020-05-30 12:35pm
Jub wrote:
2020-05-30 12:13pm

I more wanted to ask what an easily colonizable world would do to the space race, orbital manufacturing, etc. Rather than deal with the issues caused by finding life on another world. If it helps, maybe Venus has a rare inorganic means of being Earth-like without life that will end once we introduce enough of a biosphere to keep things habitable on their own.
Yes, I know, I edited my comment on Venus's planetary science while you were editing yours to say a few words on how it would affect the Space Race. > :lol:

Fundamentally, it would probably end up as a prize in that race, giving it longer legs. Orbital manufacturing... not much of an impact other than slightly cheaper rockets for space stations and space probes if you get lucky and the US authorizes Apollo-style budgets through 1980 (as per the integrated program plan, but with a tangible goal of a habitable Venus rather than Mars). This Venus has no resources we would want (no soil, no jungles, not even DNA to nab for genetic engineering), and they're stuck at the bottom of a terribly deep gravity well which will need Earth-rocket-sized rockets to get out of. Really tough place to land - a lot harder than Mars because the lander is going to be gargantuan.

To be honest, Jub, the most attractive thing to study would be the local flora. If it doesn't have life on it, the sales pitch for an IPP-Venus is a lot harder to sell.

I advised that you specify "panspermic life", since it eases the bioethics a bit. If it's from Earth to begin with, we don't need to care that much and can treat it like Antarctica.
Panspermic life would ease the bioethics issues enough to make things interesting, so sure let's go with that. Let's assume that Venus has some simple life, nothing more than simple algae, lichen, moss, and a bunch of single-celled critters and plankton. It's all relatively recent, so there aren't any coal or oil reserves that would have relied on dead and buried biomass to create.

Beyond probes that we know can be done, how do we approach landing people there and getting them back given the gravity? What does habitation look like when you can, with a fair bit of effort, grow crops in the Venutian soil?

Do we colonize it? How does it affect the exploration of Mars? How might it interact with the current climate change debate?

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Re: What if Venus was Actually Earth Like?

Post by Broomstick » 2020-05-30 04:13pm

chimericoncogene wrote:
2020-05-30 12:10pm
For simplicity's sake (since we don't really care about the life, just the idea of a habitable Venus), I would suggest it to be panspermia-origin DNA-based life, nothing multicellular. Pretty familiar stuff, clear phylogenetics, nothing weirder than say, a mix of bacteria and archaebacteria.
OK, for the sake of the scenario either there's some weird unknown mechanism generating/maintaining a human-friendly atmosphere, there was life that made the air but for some reason it's gone extinct now, or it's very simple life as you suggested. And we don't care about preserving it in a completely pristine manner.
chimericoncogene wrote:
2020-05-30 12:10pm
Either way, CO2 concentrations are probably going to be heavier without life actively sucking it out, requiring at least CO2 removal.
Well, that's easy (if you don't care about keeping Venus entirely Venusian) - import CO2 hungry Earth life. In fact, even if the "soil" of Venus is sterile sand there is the potential to terraform the place. Start with the type of life that colonizes things like newly formed volcanic islands here on Earth, or other extreme environments, and build from there.
chimericoncogene wrote:
2020-05-30 12:10pm
I think a lack of water is responsible for the lack of plate tectonics (various hypotheses for how exactly it works, basically cataclysmic intermittent resurfacing events every few hundred million years is one model), and as I recall, that lack of water is from solar UV stripping hydrogen from water vapor back in the early days of the system.
Lack of water could be an issue. Obviously, if you're going to have even minimal human outposts there you'll need water. Either we bring it with us (and impose water controls on surface settlements on par with Arrakis for the foreseeable future) or may actually do some of that slam-a-comet-into-a-planet engineering you read about in Sci-Fi.... although getting the in-space tech and transport for that will be yet another space race. Still, with sufficient incentive perhaps it could be done. Otherwise, you're looking at enclosed colonies not to keep the air in but to keep the water inside with the people and Earth life. Still, you would be able to walk around outside at least for a limited time with minimal protection. But bring water with you. And you'll probably want to bring a locking-top chamber pot with you so any bodily waste can be brought back to the settlement for its moisture content and potential recycling as fertilizer.
chimericoncogene wrote:
2020-05-30 12:10pm
So... some issues with how this Earth Mk II came about. Also rotation - Venus rotates retrograde, and has a day longer than a year maybe because of tidal locking or friction with the atmosphere. That needs to be changed.
Humans have a adapted to extended day (and night) lengths here on Earth. Sure, Venus would have more extreme versions of it, but I suspect dealing with a year-plus day/night cycle would be less an obstacle than lack of water. Assuming power and construction material, you could use shades/cover during the day to impose an artificial more Earth-like day/night cycle and during the long night you use artificial full-spectrum lighting for both people and whatever crops you have.
chimericoncogene wrote:
2020-05-30 12:10pm
I expect substantial investment in space programs by all parties, and immediate attempts to declare Venus (which in our model still has no soil, just bacterial mats) a nature preserve for all mankind similar to a warmer version of Antarctica.
Hmm..... at least until someone finds an exploitable resource and how to exploit it.

Also, I could see some folks attempting to start actual self-sufficient colonies there. Sure, the first few would probably end in tears, but given how long it takes to get there, and how hard it is to leave once you are there, it might make more sense to start a colony than to keep sending supplies and rotating people in and out.
chimericoncogene wrote:
2020-05-30 12:10pm
Fundamentally, Venus doesn't have much in the way of resources that could be easily shipped back to Earth, or exploited, and might not be farmable.
I think soil could be developed. It would be a long term project, but since we have Earth life that can colonize essentially sterile rock and develop it into soil if the Venusian climate is at all conducive to such life soil could be created. If there's enough water. Again, it might require enclosing large areas to contain moisture, but terraforming is at least theoretically possible.
chimericoncogene wrote:
2020-05-30 12:10pm
People would start with research stations - largish ones, even - to study the bacterial flora, but otherwise it would be a huge hassle to get to and get off, especially without a moon or some other propellant source in between (ISRU can only go so far when you need an Earth-rocket-sized rocket to get off Venus).
The two big problems are getting into Venus orbit - the first being from Earth to Venus orbit, the second getting from the Venus surface to Venus orbit. Getting from Venus orbit down to Venus surface is less of a problem - the gravity provides plenty of potential energy, and the atmosphere would provide braking as it does for Earth. Basically, you could do an unpowered "glide" from orbit to surface as the late lamented Space Shuttle used to do.

It takes enormous resources and sophisticated tech to get from surface to orbit - and there's another reason for starting colonies. The initial people on Venus might go as a one-way trip, with no way back to orbit once they land until the colony(s) are sufficiently large and developed to construct vehicles capable of reaching orbit again. Resupplying them isn't that much of a problem.... although if funding is cut due to austerity measures back on Earth they would be screwed. Which is yet another incentive for those on the surface to say to hell with preserving pristine Venus, we need to be self-sufficient because we want to live, dammit!
A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. Leonard Nimoy.

Now I did a job. I got nothing but trouble since I did it, not to mention more than a few unkind words as regard to my character so let me make this abundantly clear. I do the job. And then I get paid.- Malcolm Reynolds, Captain of Serenity, which sums up my feelings regarding the lawsuit discussed here.

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Re: What if Venus was Actually Earth Like?

Post by Jub » 2020-05-30 06:10pm

On the topic of water, I'd assume that an Earth-like planet should have open lakes and seas if not full-blown oceans. Earth wouldn't be very Earth-like if all our water went away or was locked up underground or in massive ice sheets.

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Re: What if Venus was Actually Earth Like?

Post by Broomstick » 2020-05-30 07:18pm

At present Venus has very little water. Like... nearly nonexistent. The solar wind keeps blowing away the necessary hydrogen component of it. In fact, destruction of Venus's water over time could account for a breathable atmosphere but no life at present on the planet.

Do you want to stipulate that Venus has a certain quantity of water in this scenario just as it has a certain quantity of free oxygen?
A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. Leonard Nimoy.

Now I did a job. I got nothing but trouble since I did it, not to mention more than a few unkind words as regard to my character so let me make this abundantly clear. I do the job. And then I get paid.- Malcolm Reynolds, Captain of Serenity, which sums up my feelings regarding the lawsuit discussed here.

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Re: What if Venus was Actually Earth Like?

Post by Jub » 2020-05-30 07:25pm

Broomstick wrote:
2020-05-30 07:18pm
At present Venus has very little water. Like... nearly nonexistent. The solar wind keeps blowing away the necessary hydrogen component of it. In fact, destruction of Venus's water over time could account for a breathable atmosphere but no life at present on the planet.

Do you want to stipulate that Venus has a certain quantity of water in this scenario just as it has a certain quantity of free oxygen?
Think of it as if our guesses about Venus from the 30s to 50s had been correct and Venus is basically a slightly warmer Earth covered in life simple enough to be of very little scientific significance past its initial discovery and a few years of study.

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Re: What if Venus was Actually Earth Like?

Post by chimericoncogene » 2020-05-30 09:08pm

Broomstick wrote:
2020-05-30 04:13pm

Hmm..... at least until someone finds an exploitable resource and how to exploit it.

Also, I could see some folks attempting to start actual self-sufficient colonies there. Sure, the first few would probably end in tears, but given how long it takes to get there, and how hard it is to leave once you are there, it might make more sense to start a colony than to keep sending supplies and rotating people in and out.
I'm thinking along a 1960-2000 timeframe, and have not looked beyond it yet. Initial exploration will almost certainly be part of the Space Race, and considering how expensive colonizing Venus would be, I doubt either the US or the Soviets would try. Just too many political problems with the Third World in the Cold War. Long-duration bases definitely, but no true colonies.

Importing algae to terraform Venus will take millennia - far beyond the timeframes I envisage.

The first immediate exploitable resource I can think of is the local flora. But you're right - we might find something else worth shipping back home.

I suggest Jub look up conditions on early Earth to see what exactly Venus would feel like. You've got a lot of squishy (?) bacterial mats everywhere, it's going to stink to high heaven, and atmospheric compositions would differ.

I don't think you'll have moss from panspermia - how are those spores going to survive the trip? Lichen is a very remote maybe... it's pretty high on the evolutionary totem pole, and fungal spores are huge compared to bacteria and cyanobacteria-friends and whatnot. But you can check.

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Re: What if Venus was Actually Earth Like?

Post by Jub » 2020-05-30 09:24pm

My point was less to build a realistic Earth-like Venus but rather to imagine the effects of a Venus as pictured by a 1930s science fiction author on the space race. Though I am enjoying the discussion of what sort of ecosystem a somewhat Earth-like, mostly kind of livable Venus might look like.

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Re: What if Venus was Actually Earth Like?

Post by Deathstalker » 2020-05-30 10:44pm

May I suggest Old Venus Collected short stories by scifi authors. I remember one story about a Soviet outpost.
Image

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Re: What if Venus was Actually Earth Like?

Post by JI_Joe84 » 2020-05-31 08:41pm

I am very sure that present day Venus's atmosphere is so thick it's pressure alone would crush human's and most earth life. I recall a model that showed the surface layers moving as fluids even though they were several hundred degrees. At least hot enough to melt the last probes to be sent there.
Thus this "habitable Venus" would have to be very different. It would require vast amounts of water, on the surface and in the mantle.
It would also require a way to keep it, so a magnetosphere similar to earth's would be a necessity. What is current day Venus's magnetosphere like? Is there one at all?
You would need all this to keep enough of the current atmosphere locked up in the mantle so that humans could walk on it with out being crushed and incinerated.

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Re: What if Venus was Actually Earth Like?

Post by Jub » 2020-05-31 08:46pm

JI_Joe84 wrote:
2020-05-31 08:41pm
I am very sure that present day Venus's atmosphere is so thick it's pressure alone would crush human's and most earth life. I recall a model that showed the surface layers moving as fluids even though they were several hundred degrees. At least hot enough to melt the last probes to be sent there.
Thus this "habitable Venus" would have to be very different. It would require vast amounts of water, on the surface and in the mantle.
It would also require a way to keep it, so a magnetosphere similar to earth's would be a necessity. What is current day Venus's magnetosphere like? Is there one at all?
You would need all this to keep enough of the current atmosphere locked up in the mantle so that humans could walk on it with out being crushed and incinerated.
Handwave all that.

I was mostly curious about what the space race would have been like if Venus was actually the second Earth we thought it was between the 30s and 50s before we got a better idea of what it's really like.

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Re: What if Venus was Actually Earth Like?

Post by TimothyC » 2020-05-31 09:00pm

Jub wrote:
2020-05-30 12:13pm
See above. Assume it's basically Earth 2.0 with liquid water oceans and everything, only it still has the orbit, mass, rotation, etc. of Venus.

I more wanted to ask what an easily colonizable world would do to the space race, orbital manufacturing, etc. Rather than deal with the issues caused by finding life on another world. If it helps, maybe Venus has a rare inorganic means of being Earth-like without life that will end once we introduce enough of a biosphere to keep things habitable on their own.
The issue I am going to have a hard time coming to terms with is what the atmosphere looks like if we presume enough that the air temp is in the liquid water range, but not so thick as to be crushing.

As for the celestial mechanics. The launch windows are about every 19 months apart as opposed to every 26 for Mars, and the transit time is slightly shorter (five vs six months).

Once at Venus, there will be the higher solar flux - every square meter at Venus gets 2.6kW/m², as opposed to 1.3kW/m² at Earth orbit. This is a factor that gets problematic for outer planet missions that are placed on trajectories that take them in toward Venus fora gravity assist - they have to be built for not only the cold, but also the hot.

Given your constraints, I'd expect a Venus program equal to or larger than the Mars program, but I think you don't get a manned (to use the vernacular of the space race) mission to Venus, anymore than you get one to Mars. The only good news is that because Venus is smaller, and less massive, I'd have to run the numbers, but a first pass tells me you might be able to build a reusable SSTO, presuming you can refill it on the surface.
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Re: What if Venus was Actually Earth Like?

Post by JI_Joe84 » 2020-05-31 10:42pm

Jub wrote:
2020-05-31 08:46pm
JI_Joe84 wrote:
2020-05-31 08:41pm
I am very sure that present day Venus's atmosphere is so thick it's pressure alone would crush human's and most earth life. I recall a model that showed the surface layers moving as fluids even though they were several hundred degrees. At least hot enough to melt the last probes to be sent there.
Thus this "habitable Venus" would have to be very different. It would require vast amounts of water, on the surface and in the mantle.
It would also require a way to keep it, so a magnetosphere similar to earth's would be a necessity. What is current day Venus's magnetosphere like? Is there one at all?
You would need all this to keep enough of the current atmosphere locked up in the mantle so that humans could walk on it with out being crushed and incinerated.
Handwave all that.

I was mostly curious about what the space race would have been like if Venus was actually the second Earth we thought it was between the 30s and 50s before we got a better idea of what it's really like.
Then we go 0 places we could walk in and set up camp to 1 prospective new world. All the territory @ home have been spoken for and here is a totally free world. Every one scrambles to get after it and I doubt we American's would share as we do in space related matters today.
1960's America was run by even more dick headed white guys than we have today. Some say environmental ism didn't truly start until the Apollo program took the "earth rise" photo and changed people's perception of the world.
Perhaps at some point you could get a similar incident or just as easily not.
With the threat of nuclear war programs such as the seed bank in the Greenland ice sheet consider becoming a NASA program to help colonize Venus.

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