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Joint Russia-U.S. project plans to land a spacecraft on Venus for the first time since 1985

Meduza
An artist’s representation of the spaceship for the “Venera-D” mission.
An artist’s representation of the spaceship for the “Venera-D” mission.
JPL-Caltech / NASA

Russia and the United States have set out scientific objectives for their joint mission “Venera-D,” which is scheduled to begin at the end of the 2020s.

Ludmila Zasova, the manager of the project’s bilateral work group and a lead contributor at the Russian Space Research Institute, explained that Russia will produce an orbiter and a lander, while NASA will contribute a long-lived surface station. The Russian spacecraft will enable offloading, after which it will continue to work for two to three hours, and the American station will be fully functional on the surface of the planet for up to 60 Earth days.

Japan as well as some European countries have expressed their willingness to become involved in the project, according to Zasova: Germany has offered to provide an infrared camera for observation of the planet’s surface, Italy has offered two spectrometers, and Japan will contribute ultraviolet and infrared cameras.

The overall cost of the project is estimated to be between $800 million and $1 billion. Zasova explained once the necessary funding is obtained, a vessel may be launched no sooner than 2027.

The joint Russian-U.S. Venera-D project began in 2013. It was suspended in 2014 due to sanctions against Russia, but work resumed in 2015. The initial project was part of the Russian federal space program for 2025. It was later removed from that framework due to budget cuts.

From the 1960s to the 1980s the Soviet Union conducted intensive research on Venus. In total, the country’s space program launched 16 Venera and Vega space probes. Ten of them successfully landed on Venus, and each of those explored the surface of the planet for durations ranging from a few minutes to several hours. The United States, however, has never managed to successfully land its own spacecraft on Venus with the exception of an unplanned landing by a small probe. Vega 2 landed in 1985, and no more devices have reached the surface of the planet since that year.

The mission to Venus is complex in comparison with flights to Mars due to extremely harsh conditions on the former planet’s surface. A thick layer of cloud surrounds Venus due to high levels of carbon dioxide, and the resulting greenhouse effect brings the temperature to over 450 degrees Celsius. The atmospheric pressure is about 100 times that of planet Earth.

Grigory Levchenko

Translated by Madeleine Nosworthy