Venera 7 and 50 years of the first successful landing on another planet

On December 15, 1970, a small capsule, just a little bigger than a soccer ball, became the first human artifact to successfully land on a planet. The Soviet probe Venus 7 managed to perch on the hellish surface of Venus. Although in 1965, the Venera 3 also managed to reach this planet, unlike its successor, it never managed to send signals to Earth.

A replica of the small Venera 7 capsule.

Instead, Venera 7, despite falling sideways after his parachute broke shortly before hitting the surface, it managed to send signals to Earth for 53 minutes, 20 of which it did from the surface of Venus. They established that the temperature on the surface of Venus is 475 ° C, confirming that humans cannot survive there and ruling out the possibility of liquid water.

Venera 7 was released on August 17. The probe achieved the first controlled landing on the surface of a planet, something unprecedented. Other probes had crashed on the Moon (like Lunik 2 in 1959) and Venera 3 on the same Venus in 1965, which only managed to send data during its fall. But none had done it from the surface of a planet or a celestial body outside the Earth.

His feat, however, was very rugged. During its fall, the parachute opened 60 km from landfall. The capsule’s antenna was extended and the return signals began. Six minutes later, the parachute broke and then collapsed, allowing the probe to fall to the surface for another 29 minutes. The artifact violently impacted the surface of Venus at 17 meters / sec.

But the coup did not prevent the small Soviet ship from sending the first information from another planet.

Today, almost every space agency in the world is planning a project to explore Venus. The forgotten neighbor of our planet revived scientists to be explored, after scientists discovered phosphine in its atmosphere, which was interpreted as “possible signs of life.”

Artistic illustration showing the surface and atmosphere of Venus, as well as phosphine molecules. These molecules float in the windswept clouds of Venus at altitudes of 55 to 80 km, absorbing some of the millimeter waves that occur at lower altitudes.

For the past 65 years, for example, NASA has sent 11 orbiters and 8 Mars landers, but only 2 Venus orbiters, and none since 1994.

One of the proposed plans to break this disparate interest belongs to the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), which plans to send an orbiter to the planet in 2023.

The United States is also preparing a mission, the one that could take off in 2025. The European Space Agency (ESA) is currently considering a proposal to send an orbiter to Venus in 2032. And the Russian space agency Roscosmos is working in collaboration with the United States to send an ambitious mission to the planet between 2026 and 2033, which would include an orbiter.

All these plans could be sped up after the recent discovery of phosphine and thus recreate the first successful mission to the planet.

Scientists believe that Venus was the first habitable planet in the Solar System, a place where life could have arisen just like on Earth. That alone is a powerful reason to return to this ancient ocean world.

According to astronomers, a lot of time has been spent searching for life on Mars when this planet only had liquid water for 400 million years, much less than the three billion that Venus had.

However, something went terribly wrong. Although Earth and Venus started out similarly, the two have gone down drastically different evolutionary paths.

And what can be a powerful reason not to go is, in turn, the most powerful justification for going again. Understand what caused Venus to undergo such a lethal metamorphosis, could make us better understand what caused the Earth to become an oasis for life.

The takeoff of Verena 7, from the Baikonur spacecraft, on October 17, 1970.

Although it is possible that Venera 7 failed to achieve the soft landing Soviet scientists hoped for, at least sent the first accurate data of what the surface of Venus was like and set the stage for even more ambitious missions like Venera 13, which landed on Venus on March 1, 1982 to take the first color photographs of the planet from its surface. .

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