Pining for Venus

Trailhead: Megan Gannon. "These scientists spent decades pushing NASA to go back to Venus. Now they’re on a hot streak." Popular Science (2021-06-29).

After a 30-year drought of new NASA missions to Venus, two will rocket there within the decade, the product of countless hours of research and testing, rock fetching, helicopter riding—and relentless optimism.

“We’ve got this brilliant planet sitting next door with a giant atmosphere and a fascinating crust and a history that somehow didn’t end up like our own planet’s,” says Garvin. “To look back in time at what that world was like—probably Earth-like and maybe even better—is an opportunity for the people of planet Earth at this point. Maybe 30 years ago we weren’t ready. But now we are.”

This one is about very serious people who dedicate their life to fringe research and missions to other planets that may not ever happen. It's tempting to do a turn on yesterday's post title and transform "sociopaths" into something making fun of scientists, like "socially awkward", but I've heard Jim Garvin give talks before and he's good at it.

Good for these scientists who finally got their trip to Venus after all these years—well, their robotic surrogate trip to Venus, since our would be instant death for humans. It's nearly harder to get the green light for funding for one of these planetary programs than it is to pull off the design and launch and landing. Opportunities are few and failures are many. It must be exciting to get that call, finally, that says, "you were selected".

I don't have any special love for Venus exploration, just the abstract love of exploring something new and difficult and unknown. All these years later and I'm still a sucker for "boldly go".

(I still remember the pictures from the Venera lander, just a pile of rocks really, in the Venus section of National Geographic's Our Universe.)

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