While Venus is never going to be a vacation destination for space tourists, largely because anybody stepping foot on its surface would die in a split-second from intense heat and crushing air pressure, a group of experts is arguing that it would be a better target than Mars for the first crewed mission to another planet, the Guardian reports. They say that since Venus is a lot closer to Earth than Mars is, a flyby mission to inspect the planet from the safety of a spacecraft could be completed in under a year, including 72 days close to the planet, compared to the three-year timeline NASA is looking at for a potential mission to Mars in the 2030s.
Experts say a Venus flyby could also happen as part of a Mars mission, with the spacecraft using Venus as a "gravity assist" that would reduce the overall flying time to Mars. In a report making the case for a Venus mission, experts described Venus as "a vast, almost completely unexplored world of great variety, mystery, and beauty, with an area of unknown lands several times the land area of Earth." The planet, they said, is "the most Earth-like and Earth-relevant world we will ever get to explore up close"—and a mission involving humans instead of only robots would benefit from humans' ability to carry out "exploratory studies focused on serendipitous observations and real-time decision-making."
One of the researchers calling for a Venus mission, Noam Izenberg of the Johns Hopkins University applied physics laboratory, says it would provide valuable experience of a long deep-space mission "without committing yourself to a full Mars mission." "Venus gets a bad rap because it's got such a difficult surface environment," Izenberg says, per the Guardian. "The current NASA paradigm is moon-to-Mars. We're trying to make the case for Venus as an additional target on that pathway." (Read more Venus stories.)