Tag Archives: Space Probe

22 October 1975, 05:13 UTC

Image of the surface of Venus captured by the Venera 9 lander, 22 october 1975. (NASA)
Digitally enhanced image of the surface of Venus captured by the Venera 9 lander, 22 October 1975. (NASA)
Mosaic of images of the surface of Venus captured by the Venera 9 lander, 22 October 1975.
Mosaic of images of the surface of Venus captured by the Venera 9 lander, 22 October 1975. The rocks are estimated to be 30–40 centimeters across. (NASA)

22 October 1975, 05:13 UTC:  The lander from the Soviet space probe Venera 9 touched down on the surface of the planet Venus, at approximately 32° south latitude, 291° east longitude.

Venera 9 lander. (nasa)
Venera 9 lander. (NASA)

The images and other data was transmitted to an orbiting section of Venera 9 for relay to Earth. The lander sent signals for approximately 53 minutes before the orbiter traveled out of range.

Venera 9 orbiter. (NASA)
Venera 9 orbiter. (NASA)

Venera 9 had been launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome aboard a Proton-K rocket, 8 June 1975. The space probe weighed 4,936 kilograms (10,882 pounds).

Once in orbit around Venus, the spacecraft separated into the orbiter and lander. As the lander descended to the surface, data was collected about the planet’s atmosphere. A 40-kilometer (25-mile) deep layer of clouds was studied. The cloud bases were about 35–40 kilometers (22–25 miles) above the surface. The clouds contained hydrochloric and hydrofluoric acid, bromine and iodine.

At the planet’s surface the atmospheric pressure was 90 times that of Earth’s. The temperature was measured at 485 °C. (905 °F.).

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

7 October 1959

Luna 3 space probe.

7 October 1959: An E-2A space probe, Luna 3, was launched by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics at 00:43:39.7 UTC, 4 October 1959, from the Tyuratam Launch Complex (now known as the Baikonur Cosmodrome). The launch vehicle was a 3-stage 8K72 rocket, a variant of the R7 Semyorka two-stage intercontinental ballistic missile. Luna 3 was approximately cylindrical, 130 centimeters (4 feet, 3.2 inches) long, with a diameter of 120 centimeters (3 feet, 11.2 inches). It weighed 278.5 kilograms (614 pounds).

At 1416 UTC, 6 October, the probe made its closest approach as it passed over the lunar south pole at 6,200 kilometers (3,852 miles) and continued around the far side of The Moon in an highly eccentric orbit. For 40 minutes, between 0330 and 0410 UTC, 7 October, cameras aboard Luna 3 took a series of images of the surface. These photographs, taken at a distance of 63,500 to 66,700 kilometers (39,457 to 41,445 miles), were the first photos ever taken of The Moon’s far side. Exposed film from the cameras was processed on board, then transmitted to Earth as television signals.

The orbit of Luna 3 was highly eccentric with a 15 day period. It came as close as 40,638 kilometers and as far as 460,755 kilometers (25,251 miles to 286,300 miles) from The Moon. Contact was lost 22 October 1959. It is believed to have reentered the Earth’s atmosphere after April 1960.

Image of the far side of The Moon captured by Luna 3, 7 October 1959.

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

18 September 1977

Earth and The Moon, photographed by Voyager 1, 18 September 1977. (NASA)

“This picture of the Earth and Moon in a single frame, the first of its kind ever taken by a spacecraft, was recorded September 18, 1977, by NASA’s Voyager 1 when it was 7.25 million miles (11.66 million kilometers) from Earth. The moon is at the top of the picture and beyond the Earth as viewed by Voyager. In the picture are eastern Asia, the western Pacific Ocean and part of the Arctic. Voyager 1 was directly above Mt. Everest (on the night side of the planet at 25 degrees north latitude) when the picture was taken. The photo was made from three images taken through color filters, then processed by the Image Processing Lab at Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). Because the Earth is many times brighter than the Moon, the Moon was artificially brightened by a factor of three relative to the Earth by computer enhancement so that both bodies would show clearly in the prints. Voyager 1 was launched September 5, 1977 and Voyager 2 on August 20, 1977. JPL is responsible for the Voyager mission.”

—NASA Greatest Images Archive

25 August 1981

NASA illustration of Voyager 2. (NASA)

25 August 1981: 4 years, 5 days after launch from the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, Voyager 2 made its closest approach to Saturn.

Upper atmosphere of Saturn, photographed by Voyager 2. (NASA)

The probe continued outward to Saturn, Neptune and Uranus, continuously transmitting images and data. In 1990, the space probe passed beyond the limits of the Solar System.

Voyager 2 is now in interstellar space. It crossed the heliopause, where “solar wind” is slowed by the pressure of interstellar gas, 5 November 2018. It is still operating, 46 years after it was launched.

On 21 July 2023, an erroneous instruction caused Voyager 2 to turn its antenna away from Earth, but on 5 August 2023, contact was reestablished. A power reduction strategy is hoped to allow the space probe to continue operating until 2026.

As of today, (24 August 2023) Voyager 2 is 133.6 Astronomical Units from Earth (19,990,415,757 kilometers/12,421,468,742 statute miles/10,793,960,992 nautical miles). Radio signals, traveling at the Speed of Light, take more than 18.5 hours to cross that distance. It continues outbound at a rate of 3.3 AU/year.

© 2023, Bryan R. Swopes