The Venera program was undoubtedly the most successful and best known series of Soviet planetary missions. During the 1970s and early 1980s, a succession of spacecraft studied Venus from orbit as well as from its hostile surface for up to an hour at a time. The ten successful Venera landers secured the majority of the in situ scientific data we have today from the surface of Venus including direct measurements of atmospheric conditions, surface composition and four sets of unique images.
A model depicting the advanced 4V-1 Venera lander on the surface of Venus in 1975. (TASS)
These successes, however, came after a series of frustrating failures starting with Venera 1 launched in February 1961 (see “Venera 1: The First Venus Mission Attempt”). The lessons learned from each failure were incorporated into the design and manufacture of each succeeding group of spacecraft designed to study Venus. It was not until the fifth group of Venus-bound spacecraft launched during the 1967 window that one of them, called Venera 4, finally reached its target and successfully returned data from our sister planet.
The New Venera Design
Like many of the early Soviet spacecraft, the first Soviet probes to Venus were ...