The first successful landing on Venus was 50 years ago. In the meantime, the planet is becoming interesting again for space travel. Venus is our nearest neighbor if you ignore the moon. Nevertheless, mankind is more drawn to Mars. That was different 50 years ago. On March 27, 1972, the Soviet Union sent the Venera-8 mission to Venus. Venera is the Russian word for Venus.
After 117 days, the probe reached Venus and started to land. On July 22, at 8:37 a.m. (UTC, Coordinated Universal Time), it entered the planet's atmosphere. The parachute opened at an altitude of 60 kilometers above the surface of Venus. The probe took about an hour to land. At 9:32 a.m., it became the first spacecraft to successfully land on Venus.
Venus: An Inhospitable Planet
Four barometers (measuring device for determining the absolute static air pressure), two photometers (with which one measure, for example, the luminance or light intensity) and a gamma-ray spectrometer (for measuring a radioactive radiation source) should collect data from the environment of the planet. After 50 minutes and eleven seconds, it was over. Conditions on Venus' surface shattered the gauges.
The surface has temperatures of 475 degrees Celsius and the atmosphere consists mostly of carbon dioxide. In addition to the 96.5 percent CO2, there are also 3.5 percent nitrogen and 0.015 percent sulfur dioxide. An environment in which humans cannot survive. Around 700 million years ago, however, tropical weather is said to have prevailed on Venus and there is also said to have been an ocean.
Landings On Venus Are a Big Challenge
Fifty years ago, relatively little was known about the conditions on Venus. However, it was already clear during earlier Venera missions: the atmospheric pressure is higher than assumed. Most probes, therefore, did not manage to reach the surface of Venus in a functional manner - a safe landing on such an inhospitable-appearing planet had to be learned first.
The Venera 7 spacecraft was the first to land on the surface of Venus on December 15, 1970. However, it was damaged due to a parachute malfunction. Nevertheless, it was able to transmit data for 23 minutes. Thus, Venera 8 was the first man-made object to land on another planet as planned and successfully.
In addition to the temperature and the components of the air, Venera 8's measuring instruments were also able to measure a pressure of 9 megapascals. This corresponds to 90 bar. Thus, the atmosphere at the surface is many times denser than that on Earth (about 1.014 bar).
Venus Is Getting Interesting Again
Even if you have lost interest in Venus for a long time - it is slowly increasing again. In 2020, astronomers published their discovery of rare molecules in Venus' atmosphere in the journal Nature Astronomy. However, later investigations were to show that the phosphine found did not actually exist in the atmosphere of Venus.
Nevertheless, the American space agency NASA approved two missions to Venus. In the future, for example, a drone could fly around in the atmosphere of Venus. In addition, the private space company Rocket Lab is also considering a private Venus mission for 2023. So Venus is getting exciting again.