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U.S. and Russia to resume talks on joint mission to Venus

The surface of Venus as seen by Venera 13

The surface of Venus as seen by Venera 13. Photo Credit: Soviet Planetary Exploration Program

A joint U.S.-Russian mission to Venus that could take place after 2025 is under consideration, according to Lev Zeleny, the director of the Space Research Institute (IKI) in Moscow. The talks about sending a joint probe to Earth’s nearest neighbor, which were put on hold after the sanctions due to the Ukrainian crisis, have a real chance now to be resumed.

“The NASA delegation has been discussing the project as a joint one,” Zeleny said last week.

He also added that the discussed project will be based on Russia’s Venera-D spacecraft (Venera is Venus in Russian), where “D” stands for Dolgozhivuschaya (long-lasting) — the first Russian project in the post-Soviet period aimed to explore Venus.

Artist's concept of the Venera-D probe.

Artist’s concept of the Venera-D probe. Image Credit: Roscosmos

NASA sees Venera-D as a strategic Venus mission sponsored by the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), with participation by NASA’s Planetary Science Division – which is part of the Science Mission Directorate (SMD). The collaborative effort between U.S. and Russian space agencies would bring considerable cost savings.

The aim of the Venera-D is the investigation of the surface, atmosphere, and plasma environment of Venus to understand the formation and evolution of the planet and its atmosphere. It will also study the dynamics and nature of superrotation, radiative balance, and nature of the enormous greenhouse effect on the planet.

The probe will most likely be launched on the Russian Proton booster, but may be designed to be launched on the more powerful Angara rocket instead.

The exploration of Venus by the Soviet Union has a long history, marked by numerous successes. The country has launched a fleet of 16 Venera probes, six Kosmos satellites, two Vega spacecraft and one space vehicle named “Tyazhely Sputnik”.

The USSR was the first to complete a fly-by of Venus, the first to conduct a chemical analysis of the Venusian atmosphere, and the first to land on the planet. The best-known lander is Venera 13, which had delivered the first color images from the surface of Venus. The Soviet Venus exploration program lasted from 1961 to 1985.

The announcement of the new talks regarding joint Venus exploration comes the same week as NASA revealed its two possible future missions that would study our neighboring planet. The Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography, and Spectroscopy mission (VERITAS) would produce global, high-resolution topography and imaging of Venus’ surface, as well as produce the first maps of deformation and global surface composition.

Another mission concept, the Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry, and Imaging (DAVINCI), would study the chemical composition of Venus’ atmosphere during a 63-minute descent. It would answer scientific questions that have been considered high priorities for many years, such as whether there are volcanoes active today on the surface of Venus and how the surface interacts with the atmosphere of the planet.


Tomasz Nowakowski is the owner of Astro Watch, one of the premier astronomy and science-related blogs on the internet. Nowakowski reached out to SpaceFlight Insider in an effort to have the two space-related websites collaborate. Nowakowski's generous offer was gratefully received with the two organizations now working to better relay important developments as they pertain to space exploration.

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