Pioneer Venus mission consisted of two spacecraft, the orbiter, and the multiprobe which launched separately to study Venus.
The Pioneer Venus 1 (also known as the Pioneer Venus orbiter) was the first of two spacecraft. NASA launched it on May 20, 1978, from the Kennedy Space Center aboard an Atlas-Centaur rocket. The space agency launched Pioneer Venus 2 after a couple of months on Aug. 8, 1978.
Scientists designed the Pioneer Venus 1 to conduct a comprehensive investigation of the atmosphere of Venus. It was a solar-powered cylinder about 8.3 feet (250 centimeters) in diameter.
The spacecraft reached the orbit of Venus on Dec. 4, 1978.
So, the orbiter looked closely through the clouds of the planet. Thus, producing the first radar topographic map of most of the surface, at a resolution of 47 miles (75 kilometers). Its cameras also detected continuous lightning.
The spacecraft also measured the detailed structure of the upper atmosphere and ionosphere of Venus. It investigated the interaction of the solar wind with the ionosphere and the magnetic field in the vicinity of Venus. It also detected gamma-ray bursts and made ultraviolet observations of comets.
All probes entered the Venusian atmosphere within 11 minutes of each other. They descended toward the surface over approximately an hour-long period. Therefore, sending back data to the Earth. Two of the probes survived the impact and one of them transmitted data for 67 minutes before being crushed. These probes confirmed clouds composed mainly of sulfuric acid droplets.
Thumbnail image: Artists conception of Pioneer Venus Orbiter. Credit: NASA/National Space Science Data Center