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Missions to Venus and Mercury

As one of the first planets to be visited by spacecraft, Venus witnessed many failed attempts at missions. However, more than 20 have been successful.  Venus is a necessary waypoint for missions to Mercury, of which there have been only two.

Active missions: MESSENGER - Venus Express - Akatsuki (Planet-C)

Future missions: BepiColombo

Past missions: Sputnik 7 - Venera 1 - Mariner 1 - Sputnik 19 - Mariner 2 - Sputnik 20 - Sputnik 21 - Venera 1964A - Venera 1964B - Cosmos 27 - Zond 1 - Venera 2 - Venera 3, Venera 4 - Mariner 5 - Cosmos 167 - Venera 5 - Venera 6 - Venera 7 - Cosmos 359 - Venera 8 - Cosmos 482 - Mariner 10 - Venera 9 - Venera 10 - Pioneer Venus 1 - Pioneer Venus 2 - Venera 11 - Venera 12 - Venera 13 - Venera 14 - Venera 15 - Venera 16 - Vega 1 - Vega 2 - Galileo - Magellan - Cassini

Active missions

MESSENGER at Mercury
MESSENGER

Launch: 3 Aug 2004. Venus flyby 1: 24 Oct 2006. Venus flyby 2: 5 Jun 2007. Mercury flyby 1: 14 Jan 2008. Mercury flyby 2: 6 Oct 2008. Mercury flyby 3: 29 Sep 2009. Mercury orbit insertion: 17 Mar 2011. Ongoing.

Links: Blog posts about MESSENGERJHUAPL - NASA - KSC - NSSDC - Wikipedia

Akatsuki:
Akatsuki あかつき

a.k.a. Venus Climate Orbiter, Planet-C

Launch: 20 May 2010. Failed orbit insertion: 7 Dec 2010. Expected return to Venus: 2015.

Links: Blog posts about Akatsuki - JAXA (Japanese - English) - Twitter - UnmannedSpaceflight.com - NSSDC - Wikipedia

Venus Express in final orbit
Venus Express

Launch: 11 Nov 2005. Orbit insertion: 11 Apr 2006.

Links: Blog posts about Venus ExpressESA public - ESA science - NSSDC - Wikipedia

Future missions

BepiColombo

Launch planned for Aug 2015. Arrival planned for 2020.

Links: Blog posts about BepiColomboESA public - ESA science - NSSDC - Wikipedia

Past missions

Cassini-Huygens

Successful Saturn orbiter (NASA)
Launch: Oct. 15, 1997
Venus flyby 1: April 26, 1998
Venus flyby 2: June 24, 1999
Cassini-Huygens used the planet Venus for two gravity assists, leading up to Earth and Jupiter flybys and its eventual arrival at Saturn.  The flybys were notable for the failure to detect lightning at Venus. Go to the main Cassini-Huygens entry for information on its mission to Saturn.

Magellan

Successful Venus orbiter (NASA)
Launch: May 4, 1989
Venus orbit insertion: August 10, 1990
By the end of its mission, Magellan had mapped over 98% of Venus at a resolution of 100 meters or better using Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR).  Images were acquired over three “cycles” at different geometries, permitting stereoscopic views of parts of the surface.  Magellan also acquired topography, slope, radiometry, and scatterometry measurements of the surface over a mission spanning five years.

Magellan Timeline
04 May 1989 Launch
10 Aug 1990 Venus orbit insertion and spacecraft checkout
15 Sep 1990 Cycle 1:  Radar mapping (left-looking)
15 May 1991 Cycle 2:  Radar mapping (right-looking)
15 Jan 1992 Cycle 3:  Radar mapping (left-looking)
14 Sep 1992 Cycle 4:  Gravity data acquisition
24 May 1993 Aerobraking to circular orbit
03 Aug 1993 Cycle 5: Gravity data acquisition
30 Aug 1994 Windmill experiment
12 Oct 1994 Termination experiment - loss of signal
13 Oct 1994 Presumed loss of spacecraft

Galileo

Successful Jupiter orbiter (NASA)
Launch: October 18, 1989
Venus flyby: February 10, 1990
Galileo flew by Venus on the way to Jupiter, collecting measurements of charged particles, dust and magnetism, infrared and ultraviolet spectral observations, data for infrared lower-atmosphere maps, and 81 camera images. The data were mostly not played back until November, 1990. Go to the main Galileo entry for information on Galileo's mission to Jupiter.

Vega 2

Successful Venus probe and Comet Halley flyby (USSR)
Launch: December 21, 1984
Venus flyby and gravity assist: June 15, 1985
Vega 2 was identical to Vega 1.

Vega 1

Successful Venus probe and Comet Halley flyby (USSR)
Launch: December 15, 1984
Venus flyby and gravity assist: June 11, 1985
As Vega 1 swung by Venus, it deployed a 2.4-meter probe into the atmosphere. The probe deployed a balloon almost immediately upon entering the atmosphere. The balloon, which measured temperature, pressure, wind velocity and visibility of the atmosphere, covered 9,000 kilometers in 47 hours before it burst. The probe took readings of the atmosphere as it descended to the surface.

Venera 16

Successful Venus orbiter (USSR)
Launch: June 7, 1983
Venus arrival: October 10, 1983
Venera 15 and 16 created a radar map of Venus over a joint mission lasting 8 months.

Venera 15

Successful Venus orbiter (USSR)
Launch: June 2, 1983
Venus arrival: October 10, 1983
Venera 15 and 16 created a radar map of Venus over a joint mission lasting 8 months.

Venera 14

Successful Venus orbiter and lander (USSR)
Launch: November 4, 1981
Venus arrival: March 5, 1982
Venera 14 sent back images of the surface and a mechanical arm collected a sample for testing. The spacecraft survived for 57 minutes before succumbing to the heat and extreme pressure.

Venera 13

Successful Venus orbiter and lander (USSR)
Launch: October 30, 1981
Venus arrival: March 1, 1982
Venera 13 returned the first color images from the surface of Venus, landing at 7.5° S, 303° E.  A drilling arm collected a sample that was examined by an onboard x-ray fluorescence spectrometer to determine its composition. The lander survived 127 minutes before giving in to the extreme heat (457°C) and the tremendous pressure (84 times the pressure at sea level on Earth).

Venera 11

Successful Venus orbiter and lander (USSR)
Launch: September 9, 1978
Venus arrival: December 25, 1978
Details about Venera 11 are sketchy; however, the spacecraft did make a soft landing on the surface, and sent back evidence of thunder and lightning as well as the presence of carbon monoxide in the lower altitudes. Data was transmitted back to Earth for 95 minutes before the lander rotated out of range of the orbiting relay.

Venera 12

Successful Venus orbiter and lander (USSR)
Launch: September 14, 1978
Venus arrival: December 21, 1978
Launched three days after Venera 11, Venera 12 actually made it to Venus four days before the other spacecraft. Venera 12 was designed to study the atmospheric composition and clouds of Venus. The lander transmitted 110 minutes of data before the planet rotated out of range of the orbiting relay.

Pioneer Venus 2 (Pioneer Venus Multiprobe)

Four successful Venus probes (NASA)
Launch: August 8, 1978
Venus arrival: December 9, 1978
Pioneer Venus 2 consisted of four separate atmospheric probes; one large probe 1.5 meters in diameter, which deployed a parachute to slow its descent, and three small probes (0.8 meters across) which plunged straight through the atmosphere.  The large probe was released from the spacecraft bus on November 16, 1978. The three smaller probes were released four days later. All of the probes arrived at Venus on December 9, 1978. Each probe took atmospheric measurements as they descended through the cloud layer. One of the probes survived to transmit data for over an hour after it impacted with the surface. The spacecraft bus that carried the probes also had instruments and made measurements in Venus’ uppermost atmosphere before burning up.

Pioneer Venus 1 (Pioneer Venus Orbiter)

Successful Venus orbiter (NASA)
Launch: May 20, 1978
Venus orbit insertion: December 4, 1978
Pioneer Venus 1 carried 17 experiments, including a radar mapper. Scientists used the radar to map nearly the entire planet, resolving features as small as 80 kilometers. The spacecraft remained in orbit until August of 1992, when it used up all its fuel and burnt up in the atmosphere.

Venera 10

Successful Venus orbiter and lander (USSR)
Launch: June 14, 1975
Venus landing: October 25, 1975
The Venera 10 spacecraft separated into two different sections, an orbiter and a lander, on October 23, 1975. Two days later, the lander touched down on the surface of Venus 2,200 kilometers from the Venera 9 lander, somewhere within a 150 km radius of 15.42° N, 291.51° E. With the orbiter acting as a relay, the lander transmitted images from the surface as well as data about clouds and the surface environment.

Venera 9

Successful Venus orbiter and lander (USSR)
Launch: June 8, 1975
Venus landing: October 22, 1975
The Venera 9 lander separated from the orbiter on October 20, 1975. Two days later, the lander touched down and became the first spacecraft to transmit a picture from the surface of another planet. It landed within a 150-kilometer radius of 31.01° N, 291.64° E.  In addition, the lander sent back information on the Venusian clouds, atmospheric composition, and light levels. All of the information was transmitted from the surface to the orbiter, which then relayed the signal to Earth. Besides acting as a data relay, the orbiter also studied the cloud structure of the planet.

Mariner 10

Successful Mercury multiple flyby (NASA)
Launch: November 3, 1973
Venus flyby and gravity assist: February 5, 1974
Mariner 10 flew by Venus for a gravity assist on its way to Mercury. It flew within 4,200 kilometers (2,600 miles) of Venus and took the first ultraviolet images of the planet.

Cosmos 482

Failed Venus lander attempt (USSR)
Launch: March 31, 1972
The final stage of the rocket carrying the spacecraft into orbit failed and it was unable to achieve the necessary trajectory to carry it on to Venus.

Venera 8

Successful Venus lander (USSR)
Launch: March 27, 1972
Venus landing: July 22, 1972
Upon Venus arrival Venera 8 used aerobraking to decelerate, and then deployed a parachute. A refrigeration unit cooled the spacecraft's components, protecting them from the intense heat as the lander descended to the surface. Once on the ground, the spacecraft transmitted data for 50 minutes, confirming a very high surface temperature and crushing atmospheric pressure.  It also measured the light level on Venus’ surface and found it suitable for surface photography, setting the stage for the images to be returned by Venera 9, 10, 13, and 14.

Cosmos 359

Failed Venus lander attempt (USSR)
Launch: August 22, 1970
The final stage of the rocket carrying the spacecraft into orbit failed and it was unable to achieve the necessary trajectory to carry it on to Venus.

Venera 7

Successful Venus probe (USSR)
Launch: August 17, 1970
Venus arrival: December 15, 1970
When Venera 7 arrived it deployed a parachute and began its descent to the surface. Scheduled to take 60 minutes to descend, the probe touched down in only 35 minutes, possibly because its parachute may have been damaged by high winds. The spacecraft then transmitted a weak signal for 23 minutes, becoming the first spacecraft to return data from the surface of another planet. It reported surface temperatures of 475°C and atmospheric pressures 90 times greater than Earth's.

Venera 6

Successful Venus probe (USSR)
Launch: January 10, 1969
Venus arrival: May 17, 1969
Twin to Venera 5, Venera 6 arrived just a day after its sister ship. Once at Venus, the spacecraft deployed a parachute and descended through the atmosphere. Scientists on Earth received 51 minutes of data as the probe descended 38 kilometers (almost 24 miles). The spacecraft was damaged the crushing pressure before it reached the surface.

Cosmos 167

Failed Venus probe attempt (USSR)
Launch: June 17, 1967
The final stage of the rocket carrying the spacecraft into orbit failed and it was unable to achieve the necessary trajectory to carry it on to Venus.

Mariner 5

Successful Venus flyby (NASA)
Launch: June 14, 1967
Venus flyby: October 19, 1967
Mariner 5 flew within 4,000 kilometers (2,400 miles) of the Venusian cloud tops. During its flyby, the spacecraft measured a surface temperature of 267°C.

Venera 4

Successful Venus probe (USSR)
Launch: June 12, 1967
Venus arrival: October 18, 1967
When Venera 4 arrived at Venus it dropped several instruments, including a thermometer and a barometer, into the atmosphere. It received data back from these probes before it deployed a parachute and descended into the atmosphere itself. Preliminary readings seemed to indicate that the probe had taken measurements all the way down to the surface, but later analysis suggested that the crushing atmosphere damaged the spacecraft at an altitude of almost 25 kilometers. The probe revealed an atmosphere made almost entirely of carbon dioxide, with temperatures ranging from 40°C high up in the atmosphere to 280°C closer to the surface, and pressures ranging from 15 to 22 atmospheres.

Venera 3

Venus probe attempt (USSR)
Launch: Nov. 16, 1965
Venus impact: March 1, 1966
Venera 3 was the first spacecraft to land on (impact) another planet, but no data was returned. It is believed that Venus's thick atmosphere and crushing pressure destroyed the spacecraft on its way to the surface.

Venera 2

Venus flyby attempt (USSR)
Launch: Nov. 12, 1965
Venera 2 flew within 24,000 kilometers of Venus on February 27, 1966, but communications with the spacecraft was lost just before its close approach with the planet.

Zond 1

Failed Venus probe attempt (USSR)
Launch: April 2, 1964
Communications with the spacecraft was lost while on its way to Venus.

Cosmos 27

Failed Venus flyby attempt (USSR)
Launch: March 27, 1964
The final stage of the rocket carrying the spacecraft into orbit failed and it was unable to achieve the necessary trajectory to carry it on to Venus.

Venera 1964B

Failed Venus flyby attempt (USSR)
Launch: Mar. 1, 1964
The rocket carrying the spacecraft failed to reach Earth orbit.

Venera 1964A

Failed Venus flyby attempt (USSR)
Launch: February 19, 1964
The rocket carrying the spacecraft failed to reach Earth orbit.

Sputnik 21

Failed Venus probe attempt (USSR)
Launch: September 12, 1962
The 3rd stage of the rocket exploded shortly after liftoff, destroying the spacecraft.

Sputnik 20

Failed Venus probe attempt (USSR)
Launch: September 1, 1962
The rocket's final stage failed and the spacecraft was unable to achieve to escape Earth orbit.

Mariner 2

Successful Venus flyby (NASA)
Launch: August 27, 1962
Venus flyby: December 14, 1962
Mariner 2 was the first spacecraft to successfully fly by Venus, at an altitude of 34,773 kilometers. The spacecraft discovered ground temperatures as high as 428°C (800°F). Other instruments detected no water vapor in the atmosphere or any evidence of a magnetic field around the planet. Radio contact was lost on January 3, 1963.

Sputnik 19

Failed Venus probe attempt (USSR)
Launch: August 25, 1962
The spacecraft made it into Earth orbit, but the rocket's last stage failed and Sputnik 19 was unable to achieve its Venus trajectory. It re-entered Earth's atmosphere three days later.

Mariner 1

Failed Venus flyby attempt (NASA)
Launch: July 22, 1962
Shortly after launch, the rocket veered off course and was destroyed by ground controllers.

Venera 1

Failed Venus probe attempt (USSR)
Launch: February 12, 1961
Communications with the spacecraft was lost while Venera 1 was on its way to Venus.

Sputnik 7

Failed Venus probe attempt (USSR)
Launch: February 4, 1961
The final stage of the rocket carrying Sputnik 7 into orbit failed and the spacecraft was unable to achieve the necessary trajectory to carry it on to Venus.

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