A List of Missions to Venus
My favourite wikipedia article is called List of Missions to Venus .
Nowadays we’re all amazed that astronomers can send a rocket out, and expect it to fly around the planet three times, nip round the moon, change trajectory while passing Jupiter, and land on some asteroid like a cautious butterfly, so it can send high-resolution images back home. But every master began as a student, so of course our initial excursions went less well.
The first rocket humanity sent to Venus left Russia, and exploded before leaving earth’s orbit.
The second went up, but didn’t radio anything back. What it’s doing now, and which direction it went, perhaps we will never know.
The US then decided to join the fun, and sent their own rocket up, which whizzed off sideways, threatening to land in some city, then finally received the self-destruct signal and dutifully died before harm was done to humans.
So the Russians went again. That one burned down, fell over, then sank into the swamp.
After many more attempts, a probe finally descended on course to Venus’ terra firma, except it was neither Terra, nor firm. The atmosphere was sulphur so dense that the air would kill someone. The heat, so aggressive that the rocks were all liquid, and it rained metal. The poor little probe managed to send back one grainy, black and white image of a hell-scape before melting.
On, and on, the articles goes, with crashes, explosions, and bangs; yet people kept sending them up. Some of the missions succeeded only because they planned for a ‘fly-by’ rather than a touch-down, so they just had to not miss by too much in order to not report a failure.
And perhaps (as I’m told) funding came from governments who hoped to get better bombs, but the scientists - I’m sure most of them just wanted to see more space, so they earnestly tried, again and again, doing a mad and pointless activity for years, because even when screaming into the void we want to hear an echo.