On October 21, 1975, Soviet unmanned craft Venera-9 became the first ever man-made object to orbit the planet Venus. The spacecraft’s probe touched the surface the following day and transmitted pictures back to Earth, also becoming the first mission to transmit photographs from the surface of another planet.
Launched on June 8, 1975 as part of a series of Soviet missions to Venus and covering the distance of around 360 million kilometers, the probe snapped the first pictures of Venus (known in Russian as Venera) from a height of 90 centimeters. It was a very surprising picture to the scientists, who had assumed that the Venusian crust would be little more than a desert of almost unbroken sand and rocks engulfed in darkness.
Three days later, its sister spacecraft Venera-10 touched down several thousand kilometers from Venera-9 after using a series of parachutes. Both made their landings in the middle of the day. As it turned out, midday on Venus, in terms of light, resembles the nightfall of a clear day back on Earth. Nevertheless, the stations were successful at taking clear, black and white photographs of the area. The optical-mechanical panoramic cameras displayed for the first time how the surface of Venus looked up close with 180-degree panoramic views.
The planet presented several unique challenges: first of all, hellish surface temperature of 460°C (860°F) and atmospheric pressure conditions ninety times that of Earth, which would make even the environment on Mars look mild. Yet again, launching on the powerful Proton booster, instead of the previously-used Molniya rocket, enabled scientists to conceive a brand-new, heavily-protected landing craft designed to survive on the Venusian surface and conduct sophisticated experiments.
Both the interplanetary probes became the first artificial satellites of Venus, transmitting data and conducting various investigations. The probes of Venera-9 and Venera-10 sent back information on clouds, atmospheric composition, and surface environment, while the orbiters acted as a communication relay and studied the dense cloud composition that hides the plant’s surface. Most of what we know about Venus today is derived from the intensive Soviet study of the planet from the 1960s to the last mission in 1984.
Seven years following the Venera-9 mission, planet Venus appeared in all it's beauty with the help of Venera-13 and 14, which took the first color panoramic photographs (in 360-degree views) of the landscape in two areas of the planet. The images showed Venus's sky has a light orange color, the same shade that appeared on the rocks and soil of the surface.