NASA's focus for human spaceflight seems to change every few years as we learn something new about what it will take to keep human beings alive out there. However, NASA usually picks one of a few targets. Will we go to Mars next, maybe back to the Moon, or perhaps an asteroid is a better option? NASA's Langley Research Center has put forward an interesting proposal — instead of the traditional choices, why not make the trip to Venus?
Sure, a human would be almost instantly annihilated on Venus' hellish surface, but not if they're floating among the clouds in a solar powered airship. This mission calls for a 129-meter airship, called the High Altitude Venus Operational Concept (HAVOC), which has a small habitat suspended below and solar panels for power.
It's a remarkable claim considering that no one has yet come up with anything resembling actual "artificial gills." Codenamed "Triton," the mysterious concept comes in the form of a small mouthpiece, reminiscent of the "rebreather" James Bond uses in Thunderball (1965) and Die Another Day (2002). It is designed to mechanically capture the oxygen gas present in water and store it in a compressed air tank. As creator Jeabyun Yeon describes on his website, water is filtered using a pair of cylindrical shaped gills that house fine threads with "holes smaller than water molecules." A built-in micro compressor, powered by a quick-charging miniaturized battery, then condenses the oxygen, making it readily available as the wearer inhales.