Venera, or the Soviets’ many attempts to reach Venus

Despite being the sister planet of Earth, Venus is far from hospitable. Very far. Its atmospheric pressure at the surface is 92 times that of Earth’s, has an average surface temperature of 863 degrees Fahrenheit, and at higher latitudes sulphuric acid rains onto the surface.

So what better force could there be to attempt to reach, land on, and take pictures of Venus than the Soviet Space Program?

As it turns out, a different force would probably have been preferable, because the Soviets did not have an easy time getting to Venus. For reference, here are the results for their first eight attempts:

  1. Failed to leave Earth
  2. Communications lost en route to Venus
  3. Failed to leave Earth
  4. Failed to leave Earth
  5. Third stage exploded
  6. Did not reach Venus
  7. Did not leave Earth
  8. Communications lost en route to Venus

And hey, going 0/8 isn’t so bad, but remember: they have not even managed to reach Venus by this point, so all of that blistering heat and acid rain has not even entered the equation yet.

When the spacecraft actually manage to make it to Venus, things do not go well. For starters, only one of them managed to last over two hours before overheating and becoming crushed by the atmosphere. One lasted a mere 23 minutes. Venera 11 managed to land on the surface, armed with a color camera, but due to a design flaw its lens cover become stuck and no pictures could be taken. The new-and-improved Venera 12 had the exact same issue.

The Photos

Eventually, however, the Venera landers did manage to take some photographs of the surface of Venus, both black-and-white and in color. Here are some of them:

From Venera 9 and 10
From Venera 13
Still from Venera 13

The Aftermath

What happened after the Soviets obtained these images? In fact, they realized that idea of landing on Venus was a little too ambitious, and the next four (and final) missions to Venus were flyby’s.

Since the last Venera landing in 1982, no spacecraft has landed on the surface of Venus. While there are some tenuous plans by the Russian space agency Roscosmos and the Indian Space Research Organization to launch orbiter spacecraft toward Venus in the late 2020s, there are currently no proposed Venus landers.

As such, it is likely that over half of a century will have passed, and our only knowledge of the surface of the planet closest to us will be a handful of dingy photographs taken by ill-fated landers, sent by a country that no longer exists.

2 thoughts on “Venera, or the Soviets’ many attempts to reach Venus

  1. Thank you for sharing the history of Venera! It is much more difficult than we (and some scientists) thought to explore a new world. Does NASA have any attempts to reach Venus/programs to investigate more about Venus? If so, how did they end up?

    Like

  2. This is a very cool story about space travel. Too often, we hear about the successes of space travel, but we don’t grasp how difficult it is to actually have successful missions. Even though I am no fan of the Soviets, the failures in their eight missions reminds makes me sad. It reminds me of the failed Challenger Mission that went wrong, killing all astronauts onboard. I’m curious about the changes they made in between each failed attempt and the mindset of the engineers who designed these space crafts.

    Like

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