High Altitude Venus Operational Concept (HAVOC)
The atmosphere of Venus is an exciting destination for both further scientific study and future human exploration. A lighter-than-air vehicle can carry either a host of instruments and probes, or a habitat and ascent vehicle for a crew of two astronauts to explore Venus for up to a month. The mission requires less time to complete than a crewed Mars mission, and the environment at 50 km is relatively benign, with similar pressure, density, gravity, and radiation protection to the surface of Earth. A recent internal NASA study of a High Altitude Venus Operational Concept (HAVOC) led to the development of an evolutionary program for the exploration of Venus, with focus on the mission architecture and vehicle concept for a 30 day crewed mission into Venus’s atmosphere. Key technical challenges for the mission include performing the aerocapture maneuvers at Venus and Earth, inserting and inflating the airship at Venus, and protecting the solar panels and structure from the sulfuric acid in the atmosphere. With advances in technology and further refinement of the concept, missions to the Venusian atmosphere can expand humanity’s future in space.