The Venusian independence movement began as a conflict over terraforming plans. The Planetary Consortium’s plan for Venus was very simple: transform it into a near duplicate of Earth. Their scheme involved introducing large amounts of hydrogen (carried to Venus in the form of diverted comets and deep space ice asteroids) into the atmosphere, combined with a gigantic microscopically-thin orbital sunshade to block out light and cool the planet. The goal was to transform Venus into a world with a habitable surface within 300 years—less if advances in technology permitted it.
These Consortium scientists applied very little consideration to the growing population of the Venusian aerostats, though their plans did call for a few large aerostats to help monitor and work on the terraforming effort. Among the aerostat population, however, opposition to these terraforming plans was growing by the day. Too many of these residents had fallen in love with the exotic beauty of Venus and its cloud cities. Though the Consortium terraforming process involved the creation of a limited Venusian cloud ecosystem, ultimately the plan called for this cloud life to die off as the dense air thinned and the world became more Earth-like. This was unacceptable to those who loved the clouds.
Individuals interested in these ideas began to communicate and formed a bold alternative to the Planetary Consortium’s terraforming plans. Known as the Aerial Terraforming Initiative (ATI), their plan consisted of the creation of a complex cloud-based ecosystem that retained Venus’s dense atmosphere, while simultaneously increasing oxygen levels to the point that the upper atmosphere, where the aerostats floated, would be 18% oxygen. Circulation patterns combined with the increasing pressure and temperatures would insure that the composition of the lower atmosphere would remain essentially unchanged. Venus would remain a cloud-wrapped world with a dense atmosphere and a brutally hot surface, but the upper atmosphere would become home to both many dozens of aerostats and a wealth of unique animal and plant life. In effect, they hoped to create an enduring cloud-based ecosystem that was as diverse and vibrant as Earth’s biosphere had once been. Various bioengineers looked forward to creating flying morphs that could truly be at home in the Venusian clouds.
The Venusian terraforming and bioengineering research groups behind the ATI submitted a detailed proposal outlining the process to the Planetary Consortium, noting the advantages over the current terraforming plans. After relatively brief consideration, the leading terraformers of the Planetary Consortium almost unanimously rejected it. Their primary reason was the fact that the ATI would only allow for a maximum Venusian population of 200 million, while a fully terraformed Venus could easily hold more than 10 times that number of transhumans. In addition, the terraformers were concerned because aerial terraforming had never been performed before. They considered the ATI to be a wasteful frivolity that would deny valuable living space to future inhabitants of the solar system.
At this point, the Venusian terraformers grew both angry and even more determined. When the Planetary Consortium rejected it, the researchers who supported the ATI were approached by a small group of Venusian radicals who had been agitating for Venusian independence for the past two years. These radicals convinced the terraformers to join forces. Previously, the small Venusian independence movement had attracted little attention. However, the ATI plan was very popular and support for both it and the independence movement began to grow. Slightly more than four years ago, supporters of Venusian independence delivered a petition signed by 4% of the Venusian population to the local Planetary Consortium representative, requesting that the issue of independence be put to a vote. Six months later, after extensive campaigns by both sides, 57% of the Venusian populace voted for independence and the Morningstar Constellation was born.
While the majority of the Venusian aerostats joined the Constellation, not all did. Two of the twenty aerostats remain allied with the Planetary Consortium, while two others remain independent. A smaller, but still significant, percentage of habitats orbiting Venus have also joined the Constellation.