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Venus in a shining light in the night sky; Stargazing.

Byline: WITH DAVID WARRINGTON Stargazing

ALMOST 50 years ago, Venera 3 became the first man-made object to impact another planet's surface.

It crash-landed on Venus on March 1, 1966 - almost a decade before NASA's first 's First A planetary landing.

It was one of the first attempts by a space agency to explore another planet.

The USSR launched a series of probes called "Venera" - the Russian word for Venus - in the 1960s, 70s and 80s.

Until the 90s, Venus was not thoroughly explored by any other space agency.

In the late 60s, sending aprobe to Venus was accomplished by the common, tried-and-test method of: combination of high surface temperatures, large atmospheric pressures, harsh chemical compositions - a result of the runaway greenhouse effect on Venus - as well as showers of sulphuric acid rain. Any probe sent to Venus didn't last long once crushed, melted and eroded.

Steadily, the issue of survival was solved by engineers and the initial Venera spacecraft lasted a couple of minutes before ceasing to function.

By the end of the 70s, the probe survival time went up to almost two hours with Venera 12.

With these extended functional lifespans, subsequent landers and orbiter missions began analysing and transmitting . Launching the probe on top of a modified missile and hoping it didn't explode on the launchpad.

? Sending the probe toward the surface of the planet at fairly high speed.

. Hoping the probe transmitted data back to Earth in the few minutes before hitting the surface.

Nine failed attempts to do this were made over five years until Venera 3 finally succeeded.

It was followed by Venera 4 - the first to transmit actual useful science data from the surface. of Venus - and Venera 7, the first to manage a soft, controlled landing.

Venus poses a big. engineering problem for spaceprobe designers.

It has hostile atmospheric, surface. conditions and a data on basalt deposits, atmospheric composition, continent mapping and basic surface imaging.

So, the Venera programme is still largely unknown and mostly forgotten.

In the coming years, we may see a new generation of robotic explorers landing on Venus.

The planet is visible low in the western sky after sunset. Covered with white clouds, it reflects a lot of sunlight which make it a very bright and brilliant object in the night sky.

After 6pm, look west and you should see a bright point of the light in the sky.

Try looking with binoculars and you may see shape to the planet. Below and to the right of Venus will be a much fainter point of light - the planet Mars.

| David Warrington is resident astronomer at the Scottish Dark Sky Observatory in Dalmellington, Ayrshire. Find out more at www.scottishdarkskyobservatory.co.uk

CAPTION(S):

PLANET A crescent moon with Venus to the left and mars above

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Title Annotation:Letters
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Feb 28, 2015
Words:466
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