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Venus - Missions to Venus

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.

In addition, you may want to check out AeroSpaceGuide. This site has some interesting facts as well as mission summaries.

The United States:

The first probe to visit Venus was the Mariner 1, but failed during launch. Only about a month later, the Mariner 2 probe was launched and reached Venus in December of 1962.

The Mariner 5 probe, originally a backup for a probe to 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 probe reach Mercury. While not designed for Venus, the Mariner 10 flew within 5,800 km of Venus during its gravity assist.

The 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 be compared.

The 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 Jupiter. In addition, the Cassini-Huygens probe also used Earth and Venus as gravity assist for its mission to Saturn.

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 1, Venera 2 and Venera 3 - failed.

Of all of the missions, orbiting probes were:

Missions that used a combination orbiter and lander were:

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.

The Future:

There are currently no plans to visit Venus in the future.

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