COLUMN: Observation, and a prayer for the future

If you were starting another colony for humanity, which would you rather choose? Venus or Mars?

Of course, if we had the technology to travel quickly to other stars, the answer might probably be neither.

But, since we're essentially tethered to our solar system, there is no harm done in comparing the habitability of our two neighbors.

First, let's start with the commonalities. Both Venus and Mars have an unbreathable atmosphere. Venus' atmosphere is mainly carbon dioxide; so, too is Mars'. Both have clouds, although their composition is very different from one another. Both are rocky worlds, smaller than Earth – Venus only slightly so. They have canyons, mountains, plains and many other things that Earth has with the important exception of flora, fauna and liquid bodies of water.

That's really where the obvious similarities end. Let's look at the differences.

First, with the excruciating Venus: The planet might be named after the Roman goddess of beauty, but it's a giant version of fool's gold. The surface is twice as hot as your oven at home. Almost just as bad and arguably worse, walking on Venus would be like trying to walk half a mile under the ocean – constantly. And, its dark brown sulfuric acid clouds block out nearly all sunlight so that only a faint orange glow reaches the surface.

Now, let's go to Mars. Unlike on Venus, you would probably have many sunny days. Sure you'd have to deal with powerful dust storms from time to time, but you wouldn't constantly be staring at angry clouds, at least. Also, as opposed to Venus, Mars is quite temperate: At the equator during the Martian summer, it can feel just like a spring day on Earth. Not bad, right? Additionally, Mars' gravity is a little more than a third of Earth's, meaning you certainly won't feel weighted down if you go out and explore the terrain.

The only possible advantage Venus has over Mars is that you could potentially build "cloud cities" high up in the Venusian atmosphere where the worst of it lies below. But, I believe I'll take solid ground over spending a full life in the air above a poisonous planet. Mars generally has more appeal, including the possibility of ancient life to dig up.

But, Venus does have a certain sort of glamorous appeal for the individual who might fancy that sort of lifestyle.

Contact Joe Malan, astronomy writer for the Enid News & Eagle, at jmalan@enidnews.com.

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Malan is entertainment editor and astronomy columnist for the News & Eagle.

Have a question about this story? Do you see something we missed? Do you have a story idea for Joe? Send an email to jmalan@enidnews.com.

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Entertainment Editor | Copy Editor | Astronomy Writer

Hi, I'm Joe. I've been with the Enid News & Eagle since June 2009. I design many of the pages you see each week in your newspaper. I love writing and talking about space, and I love listening to and writing about music as well.

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