Since there is no magnetic field compass is out. No GPS satellites either. I guess some old school methods could be used but I see some potential problems.

Assume we are over the cloud tops, can we actually see the night sky as clearly as on earth, e.g. if we look at stars for navigation?

There is no moon to use as a reference point. Will that cause problems navigating using say a sextant?

How about the length of the Venus day at 243 earth days, would that cause any kind of problems? You can't exactly wait for noon and check the hight of the sun.

I speculated whether you can use fixed points on the surface, but with the thick clouds and atmosphere I guess you can't really see the surface anyway. Say you are 50 km above surface are there simply ways of "looking" at the surface whether by radar, infrared, sound or whatever?

  • $\begingroup$ The atmosphere rotates about Venus proper, at the cloud tops at about the same speed as Earth's rotation. But weather might not be that reliable. The ESA-Soviet Vega program in the 1980s actually flew balloons successfully on Venus. But I don't know if and how they knew where they were. $\endgroup$
    – LocalFluff
    Commented Nov 17, 2016 at 13:35

2 Answers 2


I think simply looking at stars might be good enough. Wikipedia on celestial navigation says, that already in the 1960s automated celestial navigation was very accurate:

[the systems were] able to lock onto up to 11 stars (even in daytime) and resolve the craft's position to less than 300 feet (91 m)

With all the improvements in imaging technique and computer processing since the 60s, I believe looking at stars from 50km altitude could easily provide accurate navigation.

Also, we have relatively high-quality radar maps of Venus, so the radar option would also be likely to work well.

All in all, I think navigation would not be a great concern at Venus.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Venus is covered with clouds between 50 and 70 km height. Looking at stars from 50 km altitude is impossible due to the intransparent clouds. You can't get a clear view to the stars and to the surface at the same time $\endgroup$
    – Uwe
    Commented Nov 23, 2016 at 10:57
  • $\begingroup$ Will there always be clouds above you at 50km though, or just occasionally? I mean would the cloud layers always stretch all the way from 50km to 70km or only cover part of the range in some instances? Say you don't care about seeing the surface, but want to see the stars frequently, could you manage at 50km or would have have to always stay at 70 km? $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 7, 2016 at 15:00

Pressure and temperature on the surface of Venus is so high that a manned landing is impossible. If this airship is manned, the only way to return is getting back into the orbit of the space ship, but this extremly difficult and requires a huge airship including a rocket for return into orbit.

If this airship should be unmanned, you need a data transmission link back to earth. For this link some satellites in an orbit around Venus may be used. If there are enough satellites for a continous data link, they may be used for navigation too. Radar was used from satellites, therefore it may be used from an airship too. But if the airship gets down to a height of 50 to 20 km above the surface without a clear optical view to the ground, what new important scientific results we may expect?


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