Exploring the Planets

Missions to Venus

The United States, Soviet Union, and European Space Agency have sent many spacecraft to Venus. Some flew by the planet, some orbited it, some descended through the atmosphere and struck the surface (hard-landed), and a few soft-landed on the surface.

Spacecraft Launch Date Type of Mission
Mariner 2 1962 Flyby; first to fly by Venus
Venera 4 1967 Hard-lander; first to descend through atmosphere
Mariner 5 1967 Flyby
Venera 5 1969 Hard-lander
Venera 6 1969 Hard-lander
Venera 7 1970 Soft-lander; first to soft land on surface
Venera 8 1972 Soft-lander
Mariner 10 1973 Flyby en route to Mercury
Venera 9 1975 Orbiter, soft-lander; first to return photos of surface
Venera 10 1975 Orbiter, soft-lander
Pioneer-Venus 1 1978 Orbiter with radar altimeter; first detailed radar mapping of surface
Pioneer-Venus 2 1978 Four hard-landers
Venera 11 1978 Flyby, soft-lander
Venera 12 1978 Flyby, soft-lander
Venera 13 1981 Orbiter, soft-lander; first color images of surface
Venera 14 1981 Orbiter, soft-lander
Venera 15 1983 Orbiter with radar mapper
Venera 16 1983 Orbiter with radar mapper
Vega 1 1984 Flyby, atmospheric balloon probe
Vega 2 1984 Flyby, atmospheric balloon probe
Magellan 1989 Orbiter with radar mapper; first high-resolution global map of Venus
Venus Express 2005 Orbiter studying the atmosphere, plasma environment, and surface of Venus


Pioneer-Venus 1 Orbiter

Pioneer — Venus 1 Orbiter

The Pioneer — Venus orbiter carried a radar altimeter, which was used to make the first global map of the surface elevations. The orbiter's main antenna was used to produce moderate-resolution radar images of the equatorial region.

Pioneer-Venus 2 Orbiter Bus and Probes

Pioneer — Venus 2
Bus and Landers

The Pioneer-Venus bus carried and released four probes, which measured the atmospheric composition, temperature, and pressure as they descended toward a hard landing on the surface.