Mars Is Probably Not the Best Choice for the First Human Mission to Another Planet, Experts Claim

A flyby to hell or an opportunity to view an infinite paradise of alluring and fascinating landscapes and structures? Should astronauts target Venus instead of Mars for their first interplanetary mission?

If you have been following space news closely, like most people interested in space, you would know that the next scheduled mission to the Moon is the Artemis mission, and then after that, the ambitions of NASA and Musk point toward crewed missions to Mars. However, as it turns out, some experts such as Alexander Macdonald and Dr. Noam Izenberg may disagree that the next crewed mission should be to Mars. They think a flyby to Venus should be next after a mission to the Moon.

Interplanetary Transport System 29343823914
Interplanetary Transport System by SpaceX

According to research presented at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Paris, Izenberg stated that a flyby to Venus would be beneficial to the advancement of scientific knowledge and might provide an essential experience for a lengthy deep-space mission as a preparation for visiting Mars. 

The moon-to-Mars paradigm is now being used by NASA, explained Izenberg. Now Izenberg is attempting to make a case for Venus as an additional destination on that track.” Izenberg’s report also describes how traveling to Venus in the wrong direction could shorten a trip to Mars.


What should we think of this idea? 

Dr. Noam Izenberg is not advocating that astronauts should land on Venus. Instead, astronauts could observe Venus from the protection of their spacecraft as they fly by.

If an astronaut were to descend into the clouds of Venus, they would be entering temperatures ranging from 30 to 70 degrees Celsius (86 to 158 Fahrenheit). The average temperature of the Earth’s surface is 57 degrees Fahrenheit (13.9 degrees Celsius). Even if they managed to make it through Venus’s clouds, they wouldn’t have much time before succumbing to the unbearable heat. Ninety percent of people will pass away from hyperpyrexia if the temperature reaches 107.6 degrees Fahrenheit (42 degrees Celsius) or higher (the opposite of Hypothermia).

USSR Venera 9 1975 Venus ground colorized by Don P. Mitchell
Surface of Venus by Venera 9

We can safely assume astronauts are not going to land on Venus. One of the main merits of this plan is that Venus is substantially closer than Mars, making it possible to complete a flyby return mission in just one year. This is in contrast to the possibility that a round trip to Mars may take up to three years.


Venus, which is in the wrong direction, could shorten a trip to Mars

Izenberg stated that there were practical grounds for including a Venus flyby as part of the crewed landing on Mars.

Even though it would be traveling in the “wrong” direction, using Venus as a “gravity assist” to perform a slingshot around the planet could shorten the amount of time it takes to go to Mars and lower the amount of fuel that is required. As a result, a crewed flyby journey to Venus would be a natural step toward Nasa’s ultimate objective of reaching Mars in the 2030s and potentially colonizing it.

Mariner 10 gravitational slingshot
Mariner 10 gravity assist by NASA

Izenberg makes his case that NASA would be learning about how people function in deep space without committing to a full Mars expedition. It’s also not just going out into the middle of nowhere – it would have a bit of scientific value, visiting another planet for the first time,


Even though the idea of life existing on Venus has been hypothetically debunked, such a mission may answer the questions scientists seek to understand. Why does Venus, a planet so similar to our own in size, mass, and distance from the sun, end up with infernal surface conditions? Unfortunately for Izenberg, he states that the idea “doesn’t yet have traction” in the larger space travel community.

A trip to hell or meeting with a Goddess?

The two individuals have recently co-edited a report titled “Meeting with the Goddess,” which argues in favor of the hypothetical mission. The report suggests that astronauts could deploy teleoperated rovers, drones, and balloons to observe Venus’ active volcanoes and search for signs of ancient life and water in the planet’s past.

The paper says that there is “every reason to expect that Venus will be an infinite paradise of alluring and fascinating landscapes and structures.”


However, the idea does not resonate with everyone in the same way. Other scientists, such as Professor Andrew Coates, a space scientist at the Mullard space science laboratory at the University College of London, think that “a human flyby really wouldn’t add very much” to the discussion. He believes that we shouldn’t be sending people near such a hellish environment which would be pretty uncomfortable for them. Perhaps Coates is correct; the toll space has on astronauts’ health is very well documented now, causing DNA mutations and debilitating bone density loss. It’s okay for academics to hypothesize, but perhaps they should be the ones first to go?

Featured image credit: Nasa