Cook Pizza on Venus

How hot is your pizza oven? Some “craft pizza” ovens get close to 1000ᵒ F! That’s so hot you can cook a pizza in about 3-4 minutes or turn it into charcoal in 5.

The surface temperature of Venus is similarly hot, 900ᵒ F. Problem is they don’t make pizza peels long enough for an astronaut to slip a pizza down there. OK, that’s ridiculous. By the time our pizza made it near the surface it would have been exposed to sulfuric acid clouds, then atmospheric pressure enough to crush its crust paper-thin. The pizza would be a paper-thin piece of graphite or something like it. Not appealing.

What seems appealing is the concept of sending astronauts to study Venus, in orbit around it. A recent conference at Caltech highlighted the positive aspects of going to Venus – before Mars. Now, that’s a surprising development!

One advantage of going to Venus first is, it’s closer, 23.6 million miles vs 34 million miles for Mars. That means a shorter trip and maybe somewhat less cost. I don’t know the margins but traveling 10 million miles less one way seems beneficial. A trip to Venus can be a rehearsal for the trip to Mars because it will have a lot of the same requirements, without all the Mars landing and surface survival infrastructure.

Instead, a mission to Venus could be bristling with scientific instruments. Astronauts can gather data too complex to gather by automated vehicles. Remote Operated Vehicles (ROVs) are used widely for deep sea exploration and could be made to operate in Venus’s extreme conditions, at least for a reasonable time. With astronauts at the controls the ROVs could be easily commanded to fly into higher, safer altitudes when the Venus surface pressure cooker becomes too much. And it will. That can’t be done remotely from Earth – the communication delay is too long.  Under the watchful eyes of on-board astronauts these drone-like vehicles could explore without being destroyed.

Radar images of Venus’s surface from the Magellan orbiter show tantalizing surface formations and features. Spectrographic studies of its upper clouds offer enticing clues of chemistry found in anaerobic bacterial metabolism. Life!? That just scratches the surface. Venus has been studied less than Mars and while its surface is not hospitable for people, it has fascinating chemistry – maybe biology too.

Venus is an enigma mostly. It has what we call a runaway greenhouse effect, and we might be able to learn from it. But what caused it?

Why is its rotation rate so slow – one day on Venus (243 Earth days) is longer than its year (225 Earth days). Why does it rotate in the opposite direction of most other planets? Did these conditions cause and/or are they contributing to its hostile environment?

What’s in the Sky?

October 31; night into the next morning; east: The Southern and Northern Taurid meteor showers peak. They come from Earth slamming into the debris of comet Encke.