Venus is full of scientific wonders, from being the hottest planet in our solar system to having 92 times the surface pressure than we have here on Earth. Mankind has carried out many unmanned missions to Venus, but we have yet set foot on its surface. There are many variables to consider when considering a feat like this. But how long does it typically take to get there? Let’s find out!
So, how long does it take to get to Venus? It typically takes around three months to reach Venus from Earth. Although, the total length of time it takes depends on the location of Venus in relation to Earth – which does vary quite considerably depending on the planet’s elliptical orbit position.
The first spacecraft sent on a mission to Venus was the Venera 1 spacecraft from the Soviets on Feb. 12th, 1961.
What a feat!
Scientists were able to estimate that on May 19th, the spacecraft passed Venus within 62,137 miles.
It only took a little over three months for this mission, but that isn’t the case for each subsequent launch.
And with technological advancement, we would hope it would take a lot less time than this!
Let us now explore the exploration of Venus a little further. It’s truly fascinating!
How Far Away Is Venus?
When Venus is at its farthest distance, it is roughly 162 million miles from Earth. Depending on its location to our planet, this distance changes from time to time.
Venus makes its closest approach to Earth roughly once every 584 days, and this could be as close as 24 million miles.
Venus’s current distance from Earth is 137.8 million miles away at the time of this writing.
Additionally, Venus is the second brightest object in our night sky due to its general proximity to Earth.
In more detail, each distance is dependent on the planet’s elliptical orbit position.
When looking at Venus from Earth, how visible it is in the night sky can be a decent indicator of the planet’s location in its elliptical orbit.
The more visible, the closer it is and vice versa. Considering a luminosity magnitude of -4.9 at its brightest and being 24 million miles away at its closest, it makes sense why the planet would be visible to the naked eye.
Additionally, Venus will pass the sun every so often.
The term for this event is called transit.
The distance between Earth and Venus isn’t the reason we’ve only sent unmanned spacecraft.
Not only does Venus have immense amounts of pressure on the surface, but it’s also scorching.
Even with the advancements in technology, we’re left asking ourselves…
Can Humans Go To Venus?
Although we have yet set foot on the Venusian surface due to its extreme conditions, scientists and engineers are getting closer to figuring it out.
We know that the surface temperature on Venus can reach roughly 900 degrees Fahrenheit and an atmospheric pressure that’s over 90 times that of Earth.
Not to mention the thousands of volcanoes.
Humans obviously wouldn’t survive these conditions with our current methods and technology.
Back in the 1970s, Soviet scientists made the suggestion of possibly settling in the Venusian atmosphere.
Even though surface conditions may be unbearable, Venus’s cloud-level atmospheric conditions are perfect.
Venus has the most Earth-like environment in our solar system, which is why scientists have been trying to get us there for decades.
One suggestion from Geoffrey Landis (Glenn Research Center) was to use floating cities or aerostat habitats at a specific altitude in the Venusian atmosphere.
He estimated that roughly 31 miles into the air would be the optimal resting altitude for such a challenge.
Not only would this take an immense amount of equipment, but it also isn’t the most practical or safe option.
Additionally, the high levels of sulfuric acid would corrode building materials and require exceptional engineering to sustain the atmospheric conditions.
There has recently been a suggestion from a team of students at Northeastern University.
They proposed that a group of astronauts travel near the planet while they release drones down to the surface and collect as much data as possible manually before the harsh environments render the equipment useless.
This could be a way for us to collect crucial data more efficiently and accurately.
Have Humans Got To Venus?
Humans have yet to visit Venus due to extreme conditions, but we have sent over 30+ unmanned spacecraft to collect data. With the surface temperatures of Venus being so daunting and the immense pressure and sulfuric acid in the atmosphere, it essentially makes it seem impossible.
Some may think humanity should already have the technology to handle this right now.
It’s not so much that we can’t do it at all; it’s the management of safety, resources, and ensuring we have all the information we need before even making an attempt.
At the moment, it seems like the most realistic approach will be observing Venus from a distance.
As I previously mentioned, there have been talks of residing in a sweet spot of the Venusian atmosphere but, it’s not an intelligent move regarding safety or logistics.
To simply survive on the surface of Venus would require equipment to withstand extreme heat and corrosion from the sulfuric acid in the atmosphere, not to mention the pressure on the human body.
You can expect humanity to make many unmanned missions to the planet. Even then, only so much data and information can be recovered from machines.
At some point and time, we’ll reach a point where our next step is setting foot on the planet.
There are a few primary characteristics Venus has that intrigues scientists around the world.
The fact that there’s a layer in the atmosphere we can survive, and the rock surface of the planet is much like Earth.
You can’t help but wonder if someday, humans will be able to walk the surface.
Until we figure out how to survive the extreme elements of the planet, we will only be sending machines to the surface.
Although that’s already been done and we continue to do so, our best machines still only last for a certain amount of time.
Eventually, the heat will destroy the equipment.
How Do You Get To Venus?
This is dependent on a few factors, not only the speed of the rocket but also its path. You can’t just fly directly at Venus and expect to end up in its orbit. You have to base it off of the interplanetary trajectory, so the spacecraft arrives in the exact location as Venus at the same time.
On top of that, there’s only a specific window that we can launch towards Venus and successfully arrive.
These opportunities occur roughly every 19 months. Another important consideration is the spacecraft’s fuel supply, and there are a few tricks astronauts use to conserve fuel.
One of the most common is a method called “gravity-assist” trajectories.
This is when the spacecraft uses a nearby planet’s gravity as angular momentum to pick up speed and, in turn, conserves fuel for the voyage.
We pointed this out previously in the article, but the astronauts’ living conditions will also need to be in order for the voyage.
Three months to Venus and three months back may not sound like forever, but having enough food and water is paramount.
It’s safe to assume that the next time astronauts get sent to Venus, this will be an attempt at entering the atmosphere to manageable conditions at roughly cloud-level.
This would also mean that the expedition would have plenty of new technology, supplies, and materials needed to get the job done.
Even at the manageable altitude, it can still be over 160 degrees, so there’s zero room for error.
Could Humans Live on Venus?
Currently no, humans cannot live on the Venusian surface as the climate is too hostile. This doesn’t mean scientists aren’t getting close to figuring it out, though. Some have even said Venus would be a better choice for colonization than Mars due to its similar landscape and potential Earth-like history.
Most unmanned missions to the surface lasted an hour or two tops due to the harsh elements destroying the equipment in a short amount of time.
Currently, NASA has a High Operating Temperature Technology (HOTTech) program, which aims to create technology that can withstand the surface of Venus.
Primarily, making sure this technology can withstand temperatures of 900 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.
Additionally, NASA has a project called “HEEET,” which stands for Heatshield for Extreme Entry Environment Technology.
It’s built with a high density all carbon layer for the entry interface and an insulating layer to protect the spacecraft’s internal components.
Right now, this technology has a readiness rating of TLR 6.
When it reaches a rating of TLR 8, it will be ready for ground tests and space travel.
NASA scientists are also proposing a platform technology that could be placed in the cloud-level atmosphere before 2032, while a team at the Glenn Research Center is working on a few projects, including a silicon-carbide semiconductor that could potentially withstand the Venusian surface for up to 4,000 hours.
Which is much better than the 1-2 hour surface time of previous unmanned missions.
Even though surviving on the surface seems like a daunting task, the pursuit shouldn’t be written off.
Scientists believe that Venus had its own oceans that lasted for at least 2 billion years or longer.
Although the planet’s clouds are sulfuric acid, scientists have found some microbes on Earth can handle extreme conditions like the sulfuric acid clouds.
In conclusion, yes, Venus is a planet with a harsh climate, but with the right technology coming down the pipeline, humanity will find a way to tolerate its hot and acidic atmosphere someday.
Hey, my name is Chris. I’m a passionate and seasoned astronomer who loves nothing more than observing the night sky. I also love researching, learning, and writing all things Space and the Universe. I created Astronomy Scope to share my knowledge, experience, suggestions, and recommendations of what I have learned along the way while helping anyone to get into and maximize their enjoyment of the hobby.