In the 1950s, the United States and the Soviet Union engaged in a race for scientific space exploration. This “space race” was an offshoot of the Cold War. Although the Soviet Union collapsed in 1989, for a while, the country gave the US a solid run for its money.
Space race initially focused on firsts
Early on, the Soviets took a big lead with Sputnik I’s first satellite. Then, the race moved on to human space exploration. The Soviets again took the lead by launching the first astronaut into space. The United States responded with its own space travelers, including those who successfully landed on the moon in 1969.
While the American lunar landing may have effectively won the Space Race, the Soviets did not stop their exploration. While the US set its sights on Mars and solar system probes, the Soviets looked to our sister planet a little closer to the sun.
Throwing the hammer and sickle at the morning star
While Americans dreamed of putting people on the Moon and Mars, Soviets spent the 1970s trying to get to know Venus. In trying to reach the planet that had been nicknamed the morning or evening star because it shines brightly in the sky, the Soviets had a tall order ahead of them.
In 1970, the Soviet’s Venera 7 probe successfully landed on Venus. It was the country’s seventh attempt. Although officially deemed only a partial success, the probe landed and communicated back home to Earth for several minutes.
Venus is one inhospitable neighbor
However, conditions on the planet are pretty dicey. Venus is hot, gassy and suffers from extremely high atmospheric pressure. In short, it has no shot of hosting humans. After a few minutes, the pressure crushed Venera 7.
The Soviets didn’t stop their Venus explorations, launching 13 additional lander, flyby, or orbiter missions after Venera 7.