Venus: An Interplanetary Garbage Dump?
by Darnell Clayton / April 26, 2007
For thousands of years, Venus has captured the attention of humanity across our slightly larger world. Whether it was through spiritual religion, science fiction stories or modern observation, Venus has had its fair share in the celestial spotlight, only to be out shined in modern times by Mars, the Moon, Jupiter and Saturn. But Venus may again regain its spot light in our solar system, although not as a potential colony world full of happy residents. With surface temperatures approaching 482 degrees Celsius (or 900 degrees Fahrenheit), an atmospheric pressure 92 times greater than that of Earths and sulfuric acid covering this boiling world, Venus could easily serve as an interplanetary garbage dump for the inner solar system. Although humanity could ultimately attempt to recycle everything in space (and should at least try), it may be worth casting some items such as nuclear waste, biological virus (via mad scientists), chemical weapons and other deadly unmentionables into the sulfuric abyss for the safety of humanity. These products may not be worth risking human life over to salvage, and Venus would provide the perfect spot to cast them away from our presence.
Remember that “1 Bar” is the atmospheric pressure at the surface of the Earth—the pressure at the surface of Venus is 90X this! This is similar to the pressure at a depth of 1 km in one of Earth’s oceans.
Asteroid colonies may also benefit from a planetary dumping ground. Unlike their larger terrestrial friends like Earth, the Moon and Mars, future asteroid colonies would be limited in the amount of space they could conserve for general garbage. With humans producing several pounds of trash per day (in some cases), colonists will need a better alternative to removing their trash aside from burying it (which can be expensive), burning it (which may not be recommended) or simply banishing it into space. Providing an interplanetary dumping ground on Venus for these colonies may be an alternative solution, as it would help keep our cosmos clean of space junk, as well as keep the cost of mining these space rocks down.
In this figure, the solid red area is the amount of sunlight making it to the Earth’s surface (the Sun’s spectrum is the red curve). The blue curve is the “blackbody radiation” of the Earth, while the solid blue area is the amount of infrared radiation that escapes back into space (as no molecules absorb that part of the spectrum). This is the spectrum that an observer on Venus would see for the Earth (here is the equivalent spectrum that we observe for Mars). The next panel down shows you the total amount of absorbance. This includes that which is reflected back into space. Note that “Rayleigh scattering” (why the sky is blue) and the Ozone layer keep the UV radiation (shortward of 0.4 micron = μm) from reaching the Earth’s surface.
Venus could also serve as a location where scientists could conduct fairly dangerous experiments without the results affecting a future home world for humanity. Scientists could orbit the sulfuric world in orbital space stations, and if their experiments turned up unpleasant results, they could simply cast the dangerous contents onto Venian soil to face the wrath of the planet. Venus, unlike most of the other terrestrial worlds that orbit Sol, will probably never become an attractive home for humanity. With the conditions on the surface unsuitable for carbon and mechanical life, it is unlikely that scientist would find any lifeforms living on the surface, or at least life as we know it.
The lava plains cover 65% of the surface. Recent data suggests that Venus may still have erupting volcanoes! The “Venus Express” satellite detected three hot spots on the surface that are volcanoes that probably erupted within the recent (250,000 yrs) past.
Despite the hostile environment, Venus may be able to serve humanity by hosting some of our most hostile (and least enjoyable) creations. By storing our garbage and other dangerous substances on the planet, we may be able to free up space on Earth (and in the future Mars, the Moon and Mercury) for future generations.