Stars Edge Redux
Venus is Earth’s closest neighbor and the planet most like it in terms of size and geology. It is a rugged world of volcanic mountains, canyons, high plateaus, and sweeping volcanic planes crisscrossed by river like magma channels. Much of the surface is basaltic rock. The climate of Venus is one of the most inhospitable in the solar system. Perhaps only the hideous radiation of the inner Jovian moons presents a more difficult challenge to transhuman colonization. The Venusian atmosphere is a superheated maelstrom of carbon dioxide and sulfuric acid, with an atmospheric pressure at its surface equivalent to that five kilometers below the surface of Earth’s oceans. Venus also lacks more than trace amounts of hydrogen, meaning that water must be imported in the form of iceteroids from the outer system.
Nonetheless, transhumanity has come to Venus, and with it, debate over how to make use of the planet. Venus has no permanently inhabited surface settlements other than a few equipment and supply caches used by planetside researchers. Despite difficulties, transhumanity has found survival strategies that work here. The most surprising of these are the aerostats, lighter-than-carbon dioxide habitats that float in the thick Venusian atmosphere. Aside from a few independents or ones loyal to the Planetary Consortium, these aerostats are the base of the new Morningstar Constellation power bloc. Notable for their research labs, nanofab design houses, software studios, and luxury resorts, the Constellation’s aerostats are increasing at odds with Planetary Consortium and Lunar-Lagrange Alliance interests.
On some aerostats, areas populated only by indentured synthmorphs are open to the Venusian atmosphere. Some 500,000 transhumans live in aerostat habitats and another 10,000 on the surface. Roughly 5,000,000 transhumans live in habitats orbiting Venus.
Though the Planetary Consortium is considering the launch of a Venusian terraforming project, this plan is actively opposed by the Morningstar Constellation. The Constellation’s aerostats see the terraforming proposals—which include massive cometary bombardment or building a planet-sized sun shade to cool the atmosphere—as not only unworkable but disruptive to their lives and profits.
Venus is a fascinating place for climatologists, geologists, and other planetary scientists. The discovery of Venusian protobacteria created a new branch of life sciences overnight, though so far the practical applications for organisms with such radically different metabolisms from terrestrial life have been limited.
Gerlach is an O’Neill cylinder supporting about 100,000 transhumans. Generally recognized as the research powerhouse of Venus, Gerlach is also one of the strangest places in the inner system. The inhabitants have strong ties to the argonauts and sympathies for the outer system autonomists and are strong proponents of morphological freedom, cognitive experimentation, and open innovation. Gerlach’s main activities are planetside research and exploration, hostile environment morph design, and aerostat construction.
Octavia is the most successful aerostat habitat to date and the political center of the Morningstar Constellation. It maintains an altitude of roughly 55 kilometers above the northern highlands of Ishtar Terra. Octavia resembles an immense, mushroom-shaped skyscraper, 450 meters tall, ringed at its center by four radial outrigger spars, each ending in a stabilizing gas envelope lled with helium. The cap of the mushroom is a hard, translucent dome that provides an open, park like space while also serving as the main gas envelope (oxygen, which is much lighter than the CO2 making up most of Venus’s atmosphere, is the main source of buoyancy). The habitat is uted from top to bottom, going from a diameter of almost 300 meters at the base of the dome, to 15 meters wide at the very bottom. A huge counterweight tethered to the bottom of the structure prevents the habitat from capsizing during storms. Atmospheric craft and shuttles from orbit may land at ight decks near the base of the outriggers. 500,000 people live aboard Octavia.
One of 20 smaller aerostats, Aphrodite Prime hovers 54 kilometers above Aphrodite Terra. It is a center for Venusian tourism; fully a quarter of this aerostat is a resort for wealthy off-world visitors. Aphrodite Prime is also the primary research station for the design and creation of life forms adapted to live in the Venusian clouds. This aerostat has a population of 300,000 and features closed-environment test aviaries populated with clouds of air plankton and schools of recently designed flying squid and balloon fish.