February 28, 2011 - Reach Out and Touch a Planet

Reach Out and Touch a Planet Forty-five years ago this week, the Soviet Venera 3 spacecraft crashed into Venus, making it the first human-made object to impact another planet. Though only a partial success, Venera 3 paved the way for Venera 4, which transmitted data for ninety-four minutes during its descent through the hellish atmosphere of Venus. Veneras 7 through 14 landed on Venus between 1970 and 1981, several of them returning pictures from the surface. The American Magellan spacecraft began orbiting Venus in 1990, mapping its surface with a radar imager that penetrated the planet’s thick cloud cover. This global map of Venus based on Magellan data is centered on the eastern hemisphere. Venera 3’s approximate impact site is on the left side of the lower third of the image.

Image credit: NASA / JPL / USGS

Weekly Calendar

February 28 - March 6, 2011

Holidays - Sky Events - Space History

Moon phase Monday 28

Venus 1.6° south of Moon

1959: Discoverer 1 launched
1966: Gemini IX primary crew, Bassett & See, killed in plane crash
1990: STS-36 Atlantis launched
2007: New Horizons spacecraft flies past Jupiter en route to Pluto

Moon phase Tuesday 1

1927: George Abell born
1966: Venera 3 impacts on Venus
1982: Venera 13 returns first color photos from the surface of Venus
2002: STS-109 Columbia launched

Moon phase Wednesday 2

1972: Pioneer 10 launched
1995: STS-67 Endeavour launched (Astro-2 mission)
2004: Rosetta cometary probe launched

Moon phase Thursday 3

1959: Pioneer 4 launched
1969: Apollo 9 launched

Friday 4

New Moon 3:46 PM ET

1979: Jupiter’s rings discovered
1994: STS-62 Columbia launched

Saturday 5

1512: Gerardus Mercator born
1978: Landsat 3 launched
1979: Voyager 1 flies by Jupiter
1982: Venera 14 lands on Venus, returns color photos of Venus’s surface

Sunday 6

Moon at apogee

1787: Joseph Fraunhofer born
1986: Vega 1 flies by Halley’s Comet
2009: Kepler Observatory launched

Suggestions for new history dates or better links? Corrections for errors on this page? Please e-mail me.