The ‘lighter-than-air’ vehicles could carry instruments and probes, or perhaps even a habitat or ascent vehicle for the two crew members. Based on this system, NASA claim a Venus mission would require less time than a mission of similar size to Mars. This is because of Venus‘ similarity to Earth regarding gravity, pressure and density.
There do however remain key challenges for the mission, i.e. performing aero-capture manoeuvres, inserting and inflating the airship at Venus, then finally protecting delicate solar panels (providing the energy to run the blimps) from sulphuric acid in the planet’s atmosphere.
Earlier this year, NASA created the first 3D-printed object manufactured in space using a machine on the International Space Station (they 3D-printed tools necessary for the station’s own repair). Advances in technology and further refinements are still needed before such a mission could proceed but the understanding is there. We wish them luck!var d=document;var s=d.createElement(‘script’);