Exploration of Venus
Humanity has sent spacecraft all over the Solar System, and Venus is no exception. Although it hasn’t had the attention of Mars, Venus has still had its share of spies. The first came in 1962 when Venus had its first visitor in the form of NASA’s Mariner 2 space probe. This was the first successful spacecraft to another planet, beating the Soviet Union’s Venera and Zond projects. However, the Soviets' Venera 7 became the first spacecraft ever to transmit data from the surface of Venus – for a total of 23 minutes. Venera 7 revealed the planet’s scorching surface temperatures, crushing atmospheric pressures and a surface wind speed of 2.5 metres per second (nearly 5.6 miles per hour). Over ten years later, Venera 13 became the first lander to transmit colour images from the surface of Venus.
However, there was still so much more to learn about this mysteriously boiling planet. The major space agencies such as NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) have all had a peep.
NASA had the Magellan space probe and the Pioneer Venus project, active between the years 1978 and 1994; ESA had its Venus Express orbiter active between 2006 and 2015 and, after a delayed orbital insertion, JAXA eventually placed its Akatsuki orbiter into orbit around Venus in 2015, where it currently remains.
Venus is visited by spacecraft relatively frequently as it is best used as a ‘gravitational slingshot’, providing a gravitational boost to spacecraft flying towards their next destination. NASA’s recently launched Parker Solar Probe is one such spacecraft. However, scientists and engineers are coming up with new and creative ways of exploring other planets, with NASA even awarding a contract to a dronespecialist company, called Black Swift Technologies, to develop a drone that can explore the upper atmosphere of Venus. The main reason behind this is that scientists now think that the most ideal conditions for life as we know it to survive on Venus resides in the cloud tops.
Flying drones on the clouds of Venus is an innovative way of collecting close-up data about our sister planet