In the wake of the Titan tragedy, the co-founder of Oceangate – the now infamous company behind the uncertified submersible that imploded in June 2023 on its way to visit the deep-sea wreck of Titanic – has announced he wants to take people to Venus.
Guillermo Söhnlein started Oceangate in 2009 along with Stockton Rush, who died in the Titan disaster. Söhnlein left the company back in 2013 and is now chairperson of Humans2Venus, a US-domiciled non-profit “dedicated to promoting Venus as a potential long-term destination for humanity,” according to its website.
It appears Söhnlein is now capitalising on recent interest in Titan to promote the interplanetary ambitions of Humans2Venus.
1. “Forget OceanGate. Forget Titan. Forget Stockton.”
In an extraordinary outburst, Söhnlein told Insider magazine: “Forget OceanGate. Forget Titan. Forget Stockton. Humanity could be on the verge of a big breakthrough and not take advantage of it because we, as a species, are gonna get shut down and pushed back into the status quo.”
There has been a round of criticism of Oceangate’s ‘rapid innovation’ practices, which included failure to use recognised safety standards and testing regimes, ignoring industry warnings, and even firing an employee who raised concerns about the strength of Titan’s hull. Oceangate’s website once said that independent safety standards were ‘anathema’ to innovation.
Söhnlein has previously acknowledged on the Humans2Venus website that he himself is neither a scientist nor an engineer. In the latest Insider piece, he also seemed to confirm that Rush viewed safety certification as a hindrance but emphasised that exploring means taking risks.
2. What are the risks for human life on Venus?
Scientists have been studying the possibility of life on Venus since the mid-20th century. The Mariner 2 probe sent in 1962 brought back disappointing data.
Venus is the hottest planet in the solar system, with its own ‘greenhouse effect’ meaning it has surface temperatures that could melt lead, reaching nearly 900 degrees Fahrenheit. It therefore seems a strange choice for a species looking to escape Earth’s human-caused global warming.
Meanwhile, atmospheric pressure on Venus is estimated to be 90 times that of Earth, equivalent to around 1 km (0.6 miles) under our oceans, while sulphuric acid clouds float above.
3. A window of hope
It’s speculated that an area of Venus’s atmosphere about 50 km (30 miles) above the planet’s surface could support human life. Söhnlein’s ambition is to set up a colony in that part of the atmosphere by 2050.
Referring to Elon Musk’s aim to put a million people on Mars by 2050, Söhnlein said his Venus plan was “less aspirational”.