On this day in 1975, the Soviet spacecraft Venera 9 landed on Venus. It was the first successful landing on another planet. Venus holds a special fascination for me — similar to what I see others have in Mars. To some extent, it is the idea that Venus seems to me a more reasonable planet for terraforming. I’m not saying that it would be easy. But in theory, you could get rid of the carbon-dioxide. It could easily hold onto oxygen and nitrogen, if you got the temperature down. I’m still waiting for someone to explain how Mars is ever going to have a thick enough atmosphere. Just the same, the lack of a decent magnetic field is a problem. But it is on Mars too.
But mostly, I’m fascinated by Venus because it is so horrible. That picture at the top was taken by Venera 9. It was the first ever taken of the surface of Venus. And it looks kind of Earth like. At the same time, we know that those rocks are hotter than a pizza oven: 860°F. And the pressure was almost a hundred times what it is on the surface of the earth — roughly equivalent to being a half mile under the ocean. It also has a lot of sulfur in the atmophere. That is a picture of hell!
And we went there. Those crazy Ruskies actually landed on the surface! The primary purpose of the lander was not the surface, however. The mission scientists were interested in the atmosphere. It found clouds that were over 20 miles thick. And it measured such lovely chemicals in the atmosphere as hydrochloric and hydrofluoric acid. Breaking Bad fans will remember this latter as what was always used to dispose of bodies. It doesn’t actually work that way, but as I recall from chemistry class, long-term exposure will destroy your bones, as it moves through soft tissue. Which is a good deal more horrific. But also something that makes Venus that much more cool!