The Terraforming of Venus

Landis bubblehabs above Venus
Image from Steve Bowers
Landis bubblehabs at Venus' 50km level (before this world was terraformed)

Venus - Data Panel

WorldTerrestrial Class Planet, Sol II
Diameter12104 km
Orbital radius0.723 AU
PlanetologyOriginally a hot dry greenhouse world, (Cytherian Type) with an atmosphere consisting mostly of carbon dioxide with a surface pressure 94 times greater than that of Earth. The planet was shrouded with clouds of sulphuric and hydrochloric acid and the mean surface temperature was 480 C, making the world extremely hostile to terragen and carbon-based life. Because of this the planet was sparsely populated for many thousands of years; recently it has been successfully terraformed.
PopulationMainworld currently more than two billion and rising.
Government:Solar Organisation protectorate
OrbitalsThe several orbiting habitats of the interplanetary age have been replaced by the Venus geostationary ring.

Government: various, or independent

Sapients: about half a million, mostly ais, copies, cyborgs, baselines, animants, vecs, and a few superiors.

Industries: simaesthetics, totalrecalls, biotics, To'ul'h tourism

Venus before Terraforming
Image from Steve Bowers
Venus before terraforming

Venus before terraforming no clouds
Image from Steve Bowers
Venus Before Terraforming, without clouds

Venus in the Interplanetary Age

This inhospitable planet was the target of several commercial efforts during the Interplanetary age of the Solar System. A small, permanent habitat of the Stanford Torus type was placed in orbit in 150 AT; this was a climatological research centre jointly run by Mitsubishi and the European Science Foundation. Later a number of similar habitats and installations were constructed by carbon miners, who were engaged in skimming material from the top of the hot planet's atmosphere. Important mining consortia from this period include IshtarCorp and SkyScoop.

Meanwhile a small swarm of solar power collectors was being built at the planet's L1 point, just over a million kilometres from Venus in the direction of the Sun. Independent power swarms and habitats were established in the Venus/Sun L4 and L5 points; these habitats are always distant from Venus, and have always considered themselves to be independent from that planet. For a while the Evening Star was the focus of intensive activity; carbon was exported to the Moon, the Cislunar orbitals, and other carbon poor locations. High-tech finished goods, carbon buckyfibre and diamondoid products were being manufactured in orbit and in the L1 swarm.

A number of small bubblehabs were built at this time suspended at the 50 kilometer level, some large enough to support agriculture for food production. The ample sunlight available above the clouds and the energy available from the planet's superrotating atmosphere allowed the Venusian habitats to become self sufficient by 300 a.t. (2269 c.e.). During the fifth century a.t. the Venus Terraformation Project established a large habitat in LVO; this organisation also set up an extensive automated outpost near Cleopatra Patera in the northern highlands of Ishtar Terra.

Venus Deserted and Reclaimed

Just before the first nano-outbreak in 540 the volume of exports rapidly increased; it appears that many of the exported goods were infected with replicators of a new and subtle design, and this was a major factor in the spread of nanotech weapons around the system in the period leading up to the outbreak. Certainly the habitats around Venus and in its atmosphere were badly affected by the swarms; many were directly infected from within, while the industrial orbitals suspected of being sources of infected material were destroyed in retaliation during the chaos that followed.

By 700 a.t. all permanent occupation of the space around Venus had been abandoned. By the establishment of the First Federation several new sets of colonists were reclaiming the abandoned orbitals, and perhaps more importantly the L1 power swarm. A new effort to terraform the planet was commenced with the diversion of a number of small Aten-type asteroids into Venus orbit, but the Second Venus Terraforming Project went bankrupt shortly afterwards. Eventually this material was used in the construction of a dynamic orbital ring, completed in 3221.

The Venus Tweaks and the Skydweller War

During the First Federation period, the TwinStream cybertweaks (an ex-Genetekker group) began to develop an extremophile tweak human clade that could survive on Venus' surface. This effort was only successful after more than a thousand years of experiment. At the same time the upper atmosphere of Venus was recolonised using bubblehabs in the Landis balloon style; with carbon-polymer skins and supported by oxygen, these habitats could be constructed from local materials and soon thousands of square kilometres of floating balloon landscape was suspended above the hot surface.

In 4331 war broke out between the Venusian tweak extremophiles and the skydwellers; the difference in philosophy between those who wished to create habitats suitable for nearbaseline humanity and those who were prepared to modify themselves to adapt to the environment was wide and eventually became violent. This war ended in disaster for the skydwellers, as their flimsy habitats could not stand much damage before failing catastrophically. The extremophile TwinStreamers were eventually driven from the Solar System bearing the collective guilt of the genocide, despite the fact that many TwinStreamer Families were not directly involved. These Venus adapted tweaks emigrated to planets with Venus-like environments all over the Orion Arm.

The Venus-Adapted To'ul'hs

After the Version War (which barely touched the Solar System) Venus became a destination for the alien race known as the To'ul'hs; discovered in Ophiuchus in 3831 a.t., these intelligent aliens were studied for hundreds of years before they joined the mainstream Orion's Arm civilisation. Many To'ul'h philosopher/scientists were intrigued by the Human home system, and they expressed a wish to visit the old worlds; eventually a Venus-adapted to'ulmorph was developed, allowing the xenosophonts to live freely on the hot, dry surface of Venus. There was a small Venus-adapted To'ul'h habitat near Maxwell Montes, and another along the canyons of Aphrodite Terra.

At this time new Landis balloon habitats were built, eventually encircling the globe; turbine wind generators were suspended at various heights to extract power, and above all the skyminers were lifting carbon and oxygen using scoops suspended from the orbital ring. It is notable that the cult of GAIA was very strong on this world; the skydwellers called Venus the 'daughter of Gaia', and it is known that She had introduced an extensive and advanced monitoring system to watch over the Earth's sister planet.

Venus Finally Terraformed

Over thousands of years the atmosphere was slowly depleted, until the planet was so different from its original condition that the idea of terraforming was once again suggested. By 8977 a viable scheme for terraformation was agreed upon, and over the next thousand years it was finally achieved.

Venus after terraforming
Image from Steve Bowers
Venus after Terraforming; the orbital ring, built using excess atmospheric carbon, can be seen

1) A gigantic, dynamically-stabilized sunshade (also known as a 'parasol') (thousands of km across, but no thicker than necessary for stability and to blot out the sun) with an integral magshield has been located at the L1 position of Sol-Venus to start cooling the planet, also blocking the nastiest components of Sol's output. The magnetosphere and ozone layer eventually produced for the terraformed planet were not sufficient to protect the surface from solar flux, and the shade blocks direct illumination allowing artificial diurnal illumination (see below).

2) Huge "radiator fins" hundreds of kilometres tall and tens of kilometres broad, but also very thin were lowered into Venus' atmosphere from the dynamically-supported mass ring around the equator, to conduct the excess heat out of Venus' atmosphere and radiate it away into space to help speed the cooling-off.

3) A large number of comets were directed from the outer system, using momentum exchange with Uranus and Saturn onto the planet to bring H2O once the temperature dropped below the boiling point. By this time the population of To'ul'hs and balloonriders had been evacuated, a process which in itself was not without difficulties. During this period the famous but short-lived Cytherea's Diadem was formed, a temporary debris ring around Venus.

The process of bringing water/ice from the outer system was augmented with imports of hydrogen from the Sun; a corporation of Sunminers arrived via the Nexus from Aldebaran in 9230 and were responsible for much of the water of the Venusian oceans.

4) Masses of microbial plant, algae, and other photosynthetic microbes were dropped on the planet, to deal with excess CO2 by locking it up in a biosphere. The CO2 content of Venus's atmosphere was too large to be simply incorporated into a biosphere, however massive, so a proportion was incorporated into synthetic limestone rocks while much of the rest was removed for export.

Sunshade and Statite Mirrors
Image from Steve Bowers
Venus as seen from the Sunshade; the orbital ring can be seen, and behind Venus the ring of statite mirrors (note; this image is extremely foreshortened; the shade is 1 million kilometers closer to the viewpoint than Venus, and the statite mirrors are fifty thousand kilometers further away)

5) Statite reflectors were placed behind Venus suspended on the sunlight against Venus' gravitational pull. These mirrors have smart surfaces, which direct a variable eight to sixteen-hour period of sunlight (minus certain wavelengths and other solar emissions which were not needed) onto Venus to simulate a temperate, Earth-like, day-night cycle without actually altering the planet's rotation. The sunward side of Venus is illuminated during the artificial daylight period by sunlight which passes directly through the sunshade, which becomes temporarily semitransparent. The whole planet shares the same day-night cycle, with the whole world illuminated at the same time (there is only one time zone, in other words).

Image from Steve Bowers
Terraformed Venus - Surface Features (terraformed Venus texture by Runar Thorvaldsen -used with permission)

By the year 10,000 a.t. Venus was ready for habitation by nearbaseline humans and other Earth-derived species. The population of the planet in 10,400 has already reached two billion and population controls may soon be necessary. All trace of nanotech monitoring equipment controlled by GAIA has disappeared. The daughter world has finally come of age, it seems.

Venus surface today
Image from Steve Bowers
Terraformed Venus as seen from space (without clouds)

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Development Notes
Text by M. Alan Kazlev and Anders Sandberg 2002, Steve Bowers and Mike Parisi 2006. additional material by AI Vin and Ad Astra.
Initially published on 02 August 2002.