If you want to land on Mars, the United States can help. The U.S. has a pretty good track record for successfully landing space probes on Mars. But if you’d rather land on Venus, talk to the Russians. They’ll tell you how it’s done.
In fact, I’d say Russia’s special relationship with Venus began in 1761 when Russian astronomer Mikhail Lomonosov discovered that Venus has its own atmosphere.
In more recent history, Russia’s Venus-related accomplishments include:
- Venera 1: First spacecraft ever sent to Venus, or any other planet for that matter. Sadly, radio contact was lost before Venera 1 reached its destination.
- Kosmos 27: Failed in Earth orbit.
- Zond-1: Failed on route to Venus.
- Venera 3: First spacecraft to land on Venus. Well, crash land.
Okay, a lot of these missions didn’t go so well, but the Soviet space program can teach us all the value of persistence. And eventually, Russian persistence paid off.
- Venera 4: Successfully transmitted data from inside Venus’s atmosphere.
- Venera 7: First successful landing on Venus. Plenty of data transmitted back to Earth.
- Venera 11 and 12: Observed thunderstorms on Venus.
- Venera 13: First color photos from the surface of Venus.
- Vega 1 and 2: First weather balloons deployed to study Venus’s atmosphere.
As an interesting side note, Russia’s Venera 4 entered Venus’s atmosphere at almost the same time that the U.S.’s Mariner 5 was passing by. Despite the tensions of the Cold War, this was just too good an opportunity to pass up. The sharing of data from the two spacecraft was one of the earliest examples of international cooperation in space exploration.
Russia’s next mission to Venus won’t be for a while. The launch of the Venera-D space probe is currently scheduled for 2024.
Russia’s Unmanned Missions to Venus from Russian Space Web.
When the Veneras Challenged Venus’s Hellish Atmosphere from Discovery News.
Soviet Balloon Probes May Have Seen Rain on Venus from Wired.com.