Venus, a planet close to Earth with an inferno of hot gases, could be host to a possible sign of life. The recent discovery has got some of the most important figures in private spaceflight excited.
In a study published Monday in the journal Nature Astronomy, scientists announced they detected traces of phosphine gas in the Venus atmosphere. The gas is normally associated with life on Earth. But at nearly 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit, the surface of Venus isn’t exactly hospitable to life in the form we’re used to – and the team can’t explain how the gas got there. Lead author Jane Greaves described the discovery as “very unexpected and very exciting.”
For Peter Beck, CEO of private spaceflight firm Rocket Lab, the discovery reaffirmed his focus on Venus as a destination. While SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has outlined a plan to build a city on Mars, and Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos wants to build floating space cities, Beck has instead zeroed in on planning a trip to Venus.
“Today’s research highlights why we need to go, and soon,” Beck tells Inverse.
Private interest in Venus — Breakthrough Initiatives also announced intent to look into Venus further. On Tuesday, the private space science organization, funded by Russian investor Yuri Milner, announced plans to fund a research study into the possibility of life on the planet.
In a statement on the initiative’s website, Milner stressed the importance of exploring the discovery:
“Finding life anywhere beyond Earth would be truly momentous. And if there’s a non-negligible chance that it’s right next door on Venus, exploring that possibility is an urgent priority for our civilization.”
Meanwhile, Beck has spoken before about his passion for Venus. In August 2020, he said during a livestream that he’s “madly in love with Venus,” with plans to host a private mission to the planet in 2023. The mission would target aerial environments around 30 miles above the surface, where conditions are closer to those found on Earth.