SITUATION #12: Venera 13, Venus, 1982
12 June – 27 September 2015
On 1 March 1982, the Venera 13 probe from the Soviet Venera programme for the exploration of Venus landed on its surface at 7.5°S 303°E. The probe contained two optical-mechanical cameras that scanned the planet and transmitted the images back to Earth in real time. The camera system was developed by A. S. Selivanov’s team at the Russian Institute of Space Device Engineering (Moscow), and employed a scanning mirror and a pinpoint photometer which allowed a more precise measurement of luminance at each pixel, returning the entire landscape as a single seamless image.
With a temperature of 457 °C and a pressure of 89 Earth atmospheres, the cameras had to be built to endure the extreme conditions. Venera 13 survived on the surface of Venus for 127 minutes, before succumbing to the heat and pressure. The probe telephotometric cameras obtained eight colour panoramic pictures, which are the first colour pictures of the surface of Venus and, together with the images of Venera 14, are still to this day the only close-up images of the planet’s surface.
The true colour of the surface of Venus is difficult to judge because the planet’s atmosphere filters out blue light.
Venera 13 on Venus, 170 degree panorama digital image, 1982 © NASA History Office