MIT planetary scientist Sara Seager and her team now claim that micro-organisms may be able to thrive in the atmosphere of Venus by consuming sulfur clouds and converting them into compounds that shield the organism from harsh ultraviolet radiation while others are converted in to energy via photosynthesis.
The strength of their proposal is further highlighted by another recent discovery where scientists found bacteria that feed off of only toxic chemicals. Another recent finding describes how bacteria can survive off of air alone in some of the coldest deserts on planet Earth. It seems that in general the requirements for microscopic life are much less so then previously thought and thus it increases the probability of finding life on other worlds like Venus.
In this planets case the biggest challenge to survival would be keeping the bacteria afloat above a certain altitude. If the bacteria drift below a minimal threshold they will be incinerated by inhospitable conditions. This is the same reason why futurists have proposed we colonize specific layers of the atmosphere first. Venus, in general, is extremely inhospitable – but there are particular layers of the atmosphere that are at the right temperature and posses the right atmospheric composition for life to exist.
The atmosphere of planet Bespin in Star Wars
The MIT team proposed a cycle of drifting upward and downward, similar to a lava lamp whereby some microorganisms would drift so low they’re eradicated while others are carried back upward by ‘turbulent updrafts’. Either way, both would fall in to ‘dormancy’ for the time being, which would have certain protective features in and of itself.
In fact, an older article explains how some climactic phenomena on Venus may be more thoroughly explained through the presence of microorganisms. It turns out there are dark splotches within the Venusian atmosphere called “unknown absorbers” which absorb light and effect climate in a way that is peculiar. They have yet to identify the elemental composition of these particles but they are around the same size and share the same light absorbing features with micro-organisms here on Earth.
NASA has proposed several projects for the planet Venus. One of them, now inactive and archived, is called HAVOC or High Altitude Venus Operational Concept. It is basically a giant air balloon that departs on a 30 day crewed mission throughout the atmosphere. It would hover 50 km above the more acidic cloudy region in a part of the atmosphere that is much cooler. However getting to that point is more difficult then it sounds, as it would involve separating from an orbiting spacecraft and conducting a careful parachute decline, while unfolding the station and inflating it with a helium for recovering altitude.
If a concept like this is ever picked up again however it may serve as a great prototype for a larger more permanent habitation that is unfolded in a much similar manner, as it declines in to the atmosphere, only to be lifted up again by some kind of targeted updraft or futuristic antigravity device. The question being – what might such a settlement look like? What kind of unique activities may be invented for life in the Venusian atmosphere that you wouldn’t find on Earth or even Mars? Could new sports and forms of recreation be invented by virtue of living on a floating platform?