50 years since the first interplanetary communication

Earth?: Venus here.

In this very cinematic way, we can summarize the first interplanetary communication that the Venera 7 probe completed on December 15th, 1970, from the surface of the planet Venus to the Soviet space tracking station.

This was the first transmission that was completed from a planet of the Solar System towards Earth and encapsulated the results of several years of work by the space engineers of the old USSR.

A journey of four months

The Venera 7 was launched to space on August 17th, 1970, from the Baikonur cosmodrome onboard an SS-6 launcher, successfully reaching the surface of our neighboring planet four months later for the first time in history.

Venus surface capture on the first interplanetary communication
Venus surface captured on the first interplanetary communication

Results of the first interplanetary communication

Its “soft landing” cleared some of the doubts of space science that had been debated since the XVIII century, when we finally obtained the first scientific evidence that Venus was covered with an atmosphere that was supposed to be similar to Earth’s.

Venera 7 transmitted signals for 53 minutes on the first interplanetary communication, 20 of which from the surface of Venus before its components were degraded under the surrounding atmosphere.

Design of the Venera 7

Designed in a spherical shape to resist the high pressures and temperatures, as well as the impact with the Venusian surface, Venera 7 was built out of titanium and equipped with a small, 2.5 m2 parachute for its descent.

Desing of the Venera 7 built for the first planetary communication
Desing of the Venera 7 built for the first planetary communication

"Soft" landing and end of the interplanetary communication

The parachute opened at 60 km altitude, all the while the capsule’s antenna started emitting signals. Six minutes later the parachute fell apart, and the probe fell for 29 minutes. After the impact with the Venusian surface at around 60 km/h, the probe rebounded and rolled for several hundred meters, which surely damaged the structure or the position of the antenna. In spite of this, the equipment continued transmitting for 23 minutes longer. This was the end of the first interplanetary communication.

The pressure sensor failed during descent, but the temperature sensor worked, reaching up to 747 K.

The Venera 7 model built for the first interplanetary communication
The Venera 7 model built for the first interplanetary landing and communication

Author of this article: Luis Utrilla Navarro

Translated into English by: Carlos M. Entrena Utrilla, Alicia Vílchez Bedmar

Adapted by: Alicia Vílchez Bedmar

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