Sunday, April 21, 2013
For whatever happy reason, one of the images from the Soviet Venera probes made it straight to the top of /r/space this morning and has received some 5000 upvotes, generating a lot of discussion throughout the day (650+ comments so far). Reading this shows a lot of the misconceptions people tend to have about Venus. The most common one is a "I knew we could get to Mars in the 70s/80s, but Venus? That's incredible!" It's actually not - Venus is much closer than Mars and incredibly easy to land on. The Venera probes after Venera 9 used this design:
They would use a parachute until about 50 km from the surface, and then just release it and...drop. That plate-looking thing was enough to slow its velocity to under 10 metres per second by the time it reached the ground, as at that point the atmosphere is so thick it's almost like going through liquid when it comes to aerodynamics. After the landing a probe is not going to last for very long, but getting there and surviving for an hour or two is one of the easiest missions one could carry out. Venus is close, easy to reach (frequent launch windows), and very friendly for robotic exploration.