What could possibly go wrong? OceanGate co-founder claims he can 'safely' send humans to Venus – despite the firm's doomed Titan voyage that killed five men a year ago

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  • Guillermo Söhnlein co-founder of OceanGate says he can send people to Venus
  • The explorer says he wants to put 1,000 people safely on the planet by 2050 

The co-founder of the company that built the doomed Titan sub now claims he can safely send humans to Venus by 2050.

Guillermo Söhnlein founded OceanGate in 2009 with Stockton Rush, who died a year ago when Titan imploded during a dive to the Titanic wreck site along with four other men. 

However, despite this less-than-stellar safety record, Mr Söhnlein is now building a ‘global community’ of Venus enthusiasts to get human colonies to the planet.

In a blog post, he claims: ‘We could embark on our Venusian journey TODAY … and do it safely and cost-effectively.’

With surface temperatures hot enough to melt lead and an atmosphere filled with clouds of sulphuric acid, most scientists say Venus is completely uninhabitable. 

Guillermo Söhnlein (pictured), co-founder of the company that produced the doomed Titan submersible, now says he can send humans 'safely' to Venus

Guillermo Söhnlein (pictured), co-founder of the company that produced the doomed Titan submersible, now says he can send humans ‘safely’ to Venus 

Today, Venus is the warmest planet in the solar system, with a surface hot enough to melt lead and a thick atmosphere containing toxic clouds of sulfuric acid

Today, Venus is the warmest planet in the solar system, with a surface hot enough to melt lead and a thick atmosphere containing toxic clouds of sulfuric acid

Venus: Earth’s hellish sister planet 

Diameter at the equator: 7,521 miles (12,104 km)

Distance from Earth: 24 million miles (38 million km)

Atmosphere: Mainly CO2 

Surface temperature: 464°C (867°F)

Surface pressure: 92 bar

Day length: 117 Earth days

Year length: 225 Earth days

Habitability: With temperatures hot enough to melt lead, extreme pressure, and clouds of sulphuric acid Venus is considered to be very inhospitable to life. 

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Although Venus is sometimes called Earth’s sister planet, it could not be more different to our own planet. 

At 24 million miles away, it would take humans several months to get there, but the main issue is its hostile conditions. 

With temperatures exceeding 464°C (867°F) and pressures equivalent to 914m (3,000ft) beneath Earth’s ocean, Venus is not-undeservingly described as a hellish world. 

Mr Söhnlein – who left OceanGate a decade ago – doesn’t plan to attempt a landing on Venus’ surface, but suggests that humans could live in floating cities about 50km (30 miles) above the Venusian surface. 

At this height, the force of gravity is equivalent to 98 per cent of Earth, something which Mr Söhnlein believes is essential to the survival of a human colony.

Additionally, the air pressure at this altitude is equivalent to that on Earth’s surface and temperatures hold at a relatively tolerable 30-50°C (86-122°F).

As for the clouds of sulphuric acid, he says these ‘can be overcome with breathing apparatus and acid-resistant materials’ or converted into drinking water. 

Writing in his Humans2Venus blog in April Mr Söhnlein said he thinks Venus is a better prospect for humans than Mars, which is a focus of NASA and Elon Musk’s SpaceX. 

‘The reality is that Venus is much closer to Earth and has a much more similar orbit, which makes it much more accessible than Mars (lower cost, more frequent flight windows, shorter transit times, higher safety, etc.)’ he said. 

Mr Söhnlein (left) is pictured here with OceanGate co-founder Stockton Rush who died last year when their Titan sub imploded

Mr Söhnlein (left) is pictured here with OceanGate co-founder Stockton Rush who died last year when their Titan sub imploded 

The planet Venus is closer to Earth than Mars but its climate is extremely inhospitable with temperatures hot enough to melt lead and an atmosphere filled with clouds of sulphuric acid

The planet Venus is closer to Earth than Mars but its climate is extremely inhospitable with temperatures hot enough to melt lead and an atmosphere filled with clouds of sulphuric acid

At certain points in its orbit, Venus is around 24 million miles (38 million km) from Earth which could make it easier to reach than Mars

At certain points in its orbit, Venus is around 24 million miles (38 million km) from Earth which could make it easier to reach than Mars 

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Terrifying video shows how deep the Titan sub descended on a doomed voyage to the Titanic wreck

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‘Also, we don’t have to worry about conducting successful landings on the planet’s surface, which is one of the biggest challenges awaiting us on Mars.

‘If anything, one could argue that sending humans to Venus BEFORE sending them to Mars might be a better way to safely develop the capabilities to create a Martian community.’

In an interview with Times Radio last year, Mr Söhnlein said he was involved in ‘the early phases’ of a development program that designed predecessor subs to Titan, but not Titan itself. 

However, his association with the company may tarnish his reputation as a leader in exploration.

OceanGate, which he founded alongside Stockton Rush in 2009, became infamous after its submersible suffered a ‘catastrophic implosion’ less than two hours into its dive on June 18, 2023.  

Mr Söhnlein reputation for exploration has been tarnished by his association with OceanGate, the company which made the ill-fated Titan sub

Mr Söhnlein reputation for exploration has been tarnished by his association with OceanGate, the company which made the ill-fated Titan sub

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Venus IS volcanically active: Scientists find ‘strong evidence’ of eruptions and lava flows on Earth’s sister planet

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The subsequent media attention revealed a history of safety issues including concerns over the integrity of the hull. 

In 2018, OceanGate fired their director of marine operations David Lochridge who later claimed he had been dismissed for whistleblowing. 

Mr Lochridge claimed to have been fired after raising safety issues including ‘visible flaws’ in the ship’s hull. 

However, according to his LinkedIn, Mr Söhnlein had left his position as OceanGate’s COO in 2013 – years before the disaster and Mr Lochridge’s unfair dismissal claims. 

Since his departure from OceanGate, Mr Söhnlein is now pursuing the extremely ambitious goal of sending humans to Venus. 

After Titan's implosion last year, it was revealed that safety issues had been raised for years by members of staff and external bodies

After Titan’s implosion last year, it was revealed that safety issues had been raised for years by members of staff and external bodies

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Doomed Titan sub ‘red flags’ are revealed as experts expose all the key mistakes before the tragedy

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He founded the Humans2Venus foundation in 2020 with the stated goal of creating ‘the largest global community of general and professional Venus enthusiasts.’

In January of this year, the Argentinian-born entrepreneur also founded Space Bridge Partners, a firm which connects commercial investors with space exploration missions. 

And, despite humans having not yet even established a working base on the moon, he remains optimistic that 2050 is a realistic target for a Venusian colony. 

A draft company timeline shared in 2023 suggests that there could be crewed stations on the planet before 2040. 

NASA has previously considered establishing a floating colony in Venus’ atmosphere with the High Altitude Venus Operational Concept (HAVOC). 

In 2015, NASA engineers proposed that HAVOC could place lighter-than-air craft in the atmosphere which could eventually support a permanent human presence. 

Notably, it emerged that the Titan sub was controlled using a store-bought game controller. Mr Söhnlein had departed the company before the sub was destroyed

Notably, it emerged that the Titan sub was controlled using a store-bought game controller. Mr Söhnlein had departed the company before the sub was destroyed 

NASA has also proposed placing human colonies in the Venusian atmosphere with the HAVOC mission (pictured), but this remains a concept with no concrete plans for further progress

NASA has also proposed placing human colonies in the Venusian atmosphere with the HAVOC mission (pictured), but this remains a concept with no concrete plans for further progress

However, while HAVOC remains largely an intellectual exercise with no concrete plans to move forward, Mr Söhnlein says he wants to put 1,000 people on the planet by 2050. 

Speaking to Business Insider in June last year, he said: ‘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.

‘[Sending humans to Venus] … it is aspirational, but I think it’s also very doable by 2050.’ 

MailOnline has contacted Mr Söhnlein for further comment.