Venus might look like a virtual twin of the Earth in terms of size, but its temperature and atmosphere make it very different from the Earth. The temperatures can reach almost 500°C, and the atmospheric pressure is almost 100 times what you would experience on the surface of Earth. With such a terrible environment, you might be surprised to know that spacecraft have landed on Venus (although, they sure didn’t last long).
The first spacecraft to enter the atmosphere of Venus was the Soviet Venera 3 probe, which crash landed on March 1, 1966. It was destroyed in the upper atmosphere, so it wasn’t able to return any useful information back to Earth.
The next spacecraft to attempt a landing on Venus was the Soviet Venera 4 spacecraft, which entered the atmosphere on October 18, 1967. Venera 4 was able to deploy several science experiments and was operating them as it passed down through Venus’ atmosphere. But mission planners didn’t realize that the atmosphere of Venus was so thick, and so it ran out of battery power about 25 km above the surface of Venus. But this failure helped missions planners better understand conditions on Venus.
The Venera 7 spacecraft was built to handle 180 times Earth atmospheric pressure, and used a special parachute to drop it down quickly through the atmosphere. It’s believed that the parachute partially failed, and so it impacted the surface of Venus hard. It was only able to return temperature data back to Earth for about 20 minutes.
Venera 8 survived for 50 minutes on the surface of Venus, sending back data.
But the first photographs taken from the surface of Venus were sent back by the Venera 9 and 10 spacecraft. Venera 9 landed on the surface of Venus on October 22, 1975 and operated on the surface of Venus for 53 minutes. It sent back the first images ever captured from the surface of Venus. Venera 10 landed on October 25th, and captured images of pancake-shaped lava rocks. Venera 10 lasted for 65 minutes, and was able to see farther into the distance than Venera 9.
But the most successful Venus landings were the Soviet Venera 13 and 14, which touched down on March 1st and March 5th, 1982. They both survived for over an hour, and returned the first color images ever captured from the surface of Venus.
All of the spacecraft that ever landed on Venus are probably still there today.
We have written many articles about Venus for Universe Today. Here’s an article about Venus’ wet, volcanic past, and here’s an article about how Venus might have had continents and oceans in the ancient past.
We have recorded a whole episode of Astronomy Cast that’s only about planet Venus. Listen to it here, Episode 50: Venus.