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.
The largest solar sail ever constructed is headed for the launch pad in 2014 on a mission to demonstrate the value of "propellantless propulsion"— the act of using photons from the sun to push a craft through space.