What Was the First Spacecraft to Land on Another Planet?

The Soviet Union was the first country on Earth to land a spacecraft on another planet, and the first to transmit data back home. In December 1970, the probe Venera 7 crash-landed on Venus and, for just a few minutes, sent back historic information -- such as temperature (an astounding 887 degrees Fahrenheit or 475 degrees Celsius), atmospheric pressure (92 bar) and wind speed (5.6 mph or 9 km/h).

The unmanned Venera 7 launched from present-day Kazakhstan and successfully left Earth's orbit to embark on a four-month interplanetary voyage. A parachute was supposed to slow its fall to the surface of Venus, but the chute collapsed during descent, resulting in a 29-minute free-fall. The craft appeared to stop sending signals after the crash, but about 23 minutes of data were later discovered.

Uncovering some of Venus' secrets:

  • Scientists say that the spacecraft probably bounced onto its side after the crash, meaning that the antenna was not aimed correctly for sending strong transmissions to Earth.

  • The pressure reading recorded by Venera 7 corresponds to an atmosphere about 90 times heavier than Earth's. The pressure there is similar to diving 3,000 feet (914 m) beneath the ocean.

  • Venera 7 confirmed that humans would not able to survive on Venus. The spacecraft's data also excluded the possibility that liquid water exists there.

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