The big news right now is the ESA's Venus Express which is dedicated to its own page. Much of what we speculated is finally being revealed. But first, lets look at path to the present.
Several probes have visited Venus. While views of
the surface using standard
photography was possible
only by the Soviet Union's Venera probes. The US
probes provided detailed information of the
atmosphere while the Magellan probe provided views
of the surface using radar technology.
addition, you may want to check out
AeroSpaceGuide. This site has some interesting
facts as well as mission summaries.
The first probe to visit Venus was the Mariner 1,
but failed during launch. Only about a month later,
Mariner 2 probe was launched and reached Venus
in December of 1962.
Mariner 5 probe, originally a backup for a probe
Mars (Mariner 4) was modified for Venus and
launched in June of 1967. The much improved
instrumentation gave us our most detailed
information of the atmosphere of Venus.
Mariner 10 was the first probe to use gravity
assist by using the gravity of Venus to help the
Mercury. While not designed for Venus,
the Mariner 10 flew within 5,800 km of Venus during
its gravity assist.
Pioneer Venus probe was a two part mission
containing an orbiter and a multi-probe. The orbiter
was launched in May of 1978 and performed the
"standard" orbiter functions of mapping the magnetic
fields and overall imagery. The multi-probe,
launched in August of 1978, would provide even
greater detail of the atmosphere of Venus by
actually penetrating it. The multi-probe was
actually a larger "bus" and three smaller probes -
each penetrating the atmosphere so the results can
Magellan probe, launched in May of 1989,
provided us with the first ever detailed view of the
Venusian surface using radar imagery. Lava domes,
volcanoes, and other surface detail was revealed for
the first time by Magellan.
While not a probe to
study Venus, the remarkable
Galileo space probe used both
Earth and Venus
for gravity assist while traveling to
Cassini-Huygens probe also used
Earth and Venus
as gravity assist for its mission to
The Soviet Union:
Between 1961 and 1983 the
Soviet Union sent 16 probes to Venus. All of the
probes are of the Venera class. Only the first three
Venera 2 and
Venera 3 - failed.
Of all of the missions,
orbiting probes were:
Missions that used a combination orbiter and
Missions that used a lander only were:
It is suggested that the
interest in Venus by the Soviet Union
was not only of a scientific nature, but
to use the hostile environment of Venus
to test new metal alloys in its war
machine during the Cold War.
There are currently no plans to visit Venus in the future.
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