Venus is a mysterious world. Unlike Mars, however, Venus does not harbor life forms that support human habitation.
In 1975, Soviet Venera 9 and 10 spacecraft successfully deployed landers on Venus and sent back images. Additionally, Vega spacecraft dropped balloons in its atmosphere for observation purposes as well as performing radar observations.
The new VERITAS mission will search for signs of life in Venus’ lower atmosphere by shining ultraviolet light onto cloud droplets that contain organic molecules; any particles which fluoresce indicate life may exist there.
The Soviet Venera 8 probe was the first spacecraft to ever land on Venus and survived for 63 minutes on its hot and dense surface, sending back photos that depicted pancake-rock covered in lava or weathered by its atmosphere; while its onboard radar altimeter and gamma ray spectrometer detected presences of uranium and potassium in surface rocks.
Venera 8 traveled 118 days from Earth to Venus and one course correction before disengaging from its carrier on July 22nd 1972. A refrigeration system helped preserve its life at such extreme conditions on Venus.
Venera 9 made history as the first spacecraft ever to soft-land on Venus and transmit surface data back to Earth – taking 23 minutes on this world which many scientists consider Earth’s twin sister.
NPO Lavochkin’s Proton rocket carried an orbiter and lander that would investigate Venus’ harsh temperatures and pressure conditions, and work toward solving its long-running mystery of why Venus is so hot.
Venera probes included two landers designed to take black and white pictures of Venus. Unfortunately, one of their camera covers failed to open fully, restricting their views to only 180 degrees around their respective lander.
On October 20, 1975, the lander and orbiter officially separated, and on that same day the lander conducted a maneuver to enter Venus’ atmosphere on its day side.
This orbiter provided information about temperature conditions at various altitudes as well as compositional analysis of Venus’ atmosphere. Furthermore, bistatic radar investigations of Venus surface were also conducted by this probe.
Venera multi-probe missions consisted of a bus and four atmospheric probes; only one survived its descent into Venus’ hot, dense atmosphere.
Once aerodynamic braking was complete, the probe deployed its parachute and began its descent towards Venus’ surface. For 23 minutes after arriving, weak signals were transmitted until eventually its lander succumbed to extreme temperatures and pressure on Venus and went silent; marking the last time any Soviet planetary probe returned surface data.
As staff at Lavochkin prepared for the launch of two 2V spacecraft, tension between American and Soviet scientists over its surface conditions became evident. American experts believed that conditions on Venus would be much harsher than anticipated by Soviet science teams.
Venera 6 successfully touched down on Venus’ nightside and sent back an array of data as it descended. When transmission stopped at 12 kilometers altitude and 27 bars pressure, Venera 6 had completed its descent and entered atmospheric space.
After coasting for some time, the Atlas-Agena D engine ignited for a short blast to send Mariner 5 on its journey toward Mars. Equipped with solar plasma probe, helium magnetometer, trapped radiation detector and UV photometer instruments; Mariner 5 provided back-up support to Mars-bound Mariner 2.
The data sent back revealed that Venus has a slow spin rate, scorching surface temperatures and a thick atmosphere composed of carbon dioxide – as expected – but also revealed something unexpected: its day and night sides had distinct temperatures.
Venera 7 represented Soviet success in landing on Venus. Over its 35-minute descent, Venera 7 transmitted data that greatly assisted scientists’ understanding of this planet’s surface temperature and climate conditions.
In 1981, the Soviets sent Venera 13 and 14 landers to Venus without cameras for scientific measurements from above. Their findings indicated that Venus is extremely hot with surface temperatures over 850 degrees Fahrenheit and atmospheric pressures 90 times denser than Earth.
The Pioneer Venus mission consisted of a spacecraft and multiprobe launched on 8 August 1978 and reaching Venus by December.
The Orbiter utilized several instruments to investigate plasma in the upper atmosphere and used radar technology to map surface areas.
The Multiprobe separated into five vehicles near Venus. Four small probes landed and transmitted data during their descent through Venusian atmosphere; one small probe discovered phosphine gas, believed to be produced through biological processes.