Man-made spacecraft have been exploring other planets for a full 60 years.
On December 14, 1962, a NASA spacecraft made contact Mariner 2 The past flew by Venus On the first ever planetary flight. The maneuver gave the spacecraft 42 minutes to observe what scientists now consider it to be a landInfernal Twin – whose hidden surface in time It was thought of as a rainforest or a swamp.
Data from Mariner 2 instead showed that even the night side of Venus was scorching, with surface temperatures of up to 421 degrees Fahrenheit (216 degrees Celsius), According to NASA. Scientists already knew about the extremely slow rotation of Venus (a day on Venus lasts about 243 Earth days), but they expected that the temperature difference on both sides of the planet day and night would appear much greater than what Mariner 2 found.
At the time, agency officials wrote that the Mariner 2 data painted a picture of “a hot, glowing Earth covered by fluffy, dark, cold clouds,” According to The New York Times.
Related: Venus, previously described as Earth’s twin, is a greenhouse (and tantalizing target in the search for life)
Mariner 2 followed its twin and predecessor to the launch pad just one month after the failed launch of Mariner 1 in July 1962. Range personnel blew Mariner 1 less than five minutes after launch because the booster was out of trajectory and expected to malfunction, According to NASA.
But the Mariner 2 launch went smoothly, and despite hiccups along the way, the probe endured its three-and-a-half-month journey to Venus. In addition, that flight allowed Mariner 2 to confirm the presence of solar windthe continuous stream of charged particles streaming down from the sun, and note a large solar flare, According to NASA.
During a flyby of Venus, Mariner 2 used its seven instruments to study the day and night sides of the planet. In addition to measuring the planet’s temperature, Mariner 2 detected the thick layer of clouds in the middle atmosphere. Scientists now know that these clouds are mostly sulfuric acid.
Although Mariner 2 made the first interplanetary flyby, it wasn’t the first spacecraft to fly past another body in our neighborhood. Solar System. That honor goes to the Soviet Union’s Luna 1 mission, which flew across the moon in 1959.
Venus was a common destination for both the United States and the Soviet Union from the 1960s to the early 1980s before its popularity began to wane. Currently, there is only one spacecraft dedicated to the Japanese planet Venus Akatsuki A mission that has been in orbit around the planet since 2015.
But the solar wind returned the favor, so to speak. Both from NASA Parker Solar Probe and the European Space Agency (ESA) solar orbit They watch Venus as they fly by to adjust their tracks and venture closer to the sun.
Venus is back on the agenda in a big way. NASA is committed to DAVINCI AND VERITAS MISSIONSand ESA to EnVision missionall of which will explore the planet in the 2030s.
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