President Obama wants to have humans on Mars in about 20 years, a goal that prompts all kinds of questions about the logistics of such a feat. But as Brian Fung writes in the Washington Post, it also prompts a more fundamental question: Why Mars and not Venus? As proponents point out, Venus is about 10 million miles closer—and thus a much cheaper trip—and is in many ways far more hospitable to Earthlings than Mars. For one thing, the latter planet's low gravity poses significant health risks to humans.
Venus has a major drawback as well in that its surface temperature "is hot enough to melt metal," writes Fung, meaning there's no way we could actually land on it. But the planet's upper atmosphere is actually relatively close to Earth's, thus raising the idea of "floating cities"—see this NASA video on a possible manned mission. That, however, gets to the heart of why a mission to Venus might never get off the ground. "Humans are obsessed with landing on things as a way to claim them," writes Fung, citing this PBS video on the subject. "Planting a flag is a lot more dramatic than throwing one out an airlock." Click for the full post.