Greetings fellow SimHQler,
Tomorrow NASA will send the next big Rover to Mars. The Mars Science Laboratory (short: MSL) will launch from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on an Atlas V at 10:02 AM EST (or 15:02 GMT). It will study the habitability of the red planet and will hopefully give a good indication if life existed on Mars or maybe still exists. It will also provide valuable information for a future manned flight to the red planet.
In honor of this moment i decided to recreate the mission that gave us the very first pictures of the surface of a different planet: Venera 9.
The Venera program was created by the Soviet Union to study our sister planet and it changed our view of Venus forever. On Earth you can only see the thick clouds that engulf the whole Planet and astronomers believed that since Venus is as big as our blue planet that it must have similar characteristics. The general assumption was that Venus, since it is closer to the sun and thus is warmer than Earth, is a tropical world similar to what we find in our Rainforests down here.
So obviously the Soviets build their first probes for these conditions and launched them towards Venus. Unfortunatly the first attempts never even reached their destination due to spacecraft failures, so the first probe that actually reached Venus was Venera 3, but malfunction also struck here and the lander crash landed on venus and never returned any science data. It was up to Venera 4 to 6 to give the first hints at Venus true character. During their decents they constantly reported back the condition of the atmosphere. Venera 4 started its mesurements at 52 km (32 miles) above the surface and already reported a temperature of 33°C (91.4°F) with a pressure of a bit less then 1 atmosphere. In its last data point that the probe send it reported a temperature of 262°C (503°F) and a pressure of 22 atmospheres. The probe was then crushed before it even reached the surface of Venus.
Since Venera 5 and 6 confirmed these findings it became very obvious that Venus was far from being a tropical planet. It was Hell. So the Soviets went back to the drawing board and designed Venera 7 to withstand these harsh conditions and when it arrived at Venus it worked as planned. Venera 7 became the first probe that soft landed on a different planet. Unfortunatly Venera 7 landed on its side and was unable to transmit much data back to earth, however the data it was able to send back showed that the surface temperature was 470°C (878°F) and the pressure around 90 atmospheres. Venera 8 then confirmed these findings and provided the path for Venera 9 by meassuring the light levels on the surface. It turned out that it is comparable with an overcast day here on Earth and imaging the surface was possible.
So the stage was set for Venera 9.
Welcome to the Baikonour Cosmodrome. Today is June 8, 1975 and the time is 02:28 GMT
Its a great day to launch a mission to Venus, so lets not waste time. Off i go
After a couple of minutes i reached the preliminary parking orbit:
Now i calculated the the eject manouver to reach venus with the help of the TransX addon. An awesome tool if you want to reach a place in the solarsystem. If you want to know how TransX works and how i reached these solutions, then have a look at this great 4 part tutorial which showcases a flight to Mars: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B3hGTAaH7zo
Unfortunatly i was not able to use the addons that the builder of the Venera 9 addon had in mind and thus i was unable to recreate the flight perfectly since the version of the Proton-K that i had to use didn't really match the real one performance wise.
So with what i had at hand i planned the first inital flight plan. On the left is the flight path in green. The inner blue circle is the Venus orbit. The outer blue ring is the Earth orbit. The position of the planets are marked with a blue line. The blue line marking Earths position is hidden below the white line on the bottom. The white line actually marks the orbital plane i'm currently in and as i just departed Earth i'm obviously in plane with Earth.
The Picture on the right shows the manouver data and orientation. if the green cross is in the center i'm aligned for the burn.
As you can see i will miss Venus by about 5.7 million kilometers (or 3.5 million miles). I could have chosen a path that got me closer, but we have to do mid course correction burns anyway to refine our approach to Venus and i had to deal with the limit peformance of the upperstage of my Proton. So i decided for this approach.
I burned my solution and so i was on my journey to Venus WOHOO. The Orbit page confirmes that i will leave earth for good:
Since the upperstage is now useless to me, i jettison it:
Time now to say goodbye to our beautiful planet as it gets smaller and smaller (bonus points if you can tell where we are above the earth)
After a couple of months Earth is just a little blob above our spacecraft in the blackness of space while it is circled by its "little" Moon (upper left corner):
While on course to Venus i peformed two mid course correction burns. The green circle is the current flight path, while the dotted yellow line is the path i take if i burn this solution. The left one is the first burn and it got me inside 23040 kilometers (14316 miles) above the center of venus. That was close enough for this early in the flight.
On the right side you can see the second burn i peformed. Since we want our Lander to actually reach the surface of venus a flyby is just not enough.
So as you can see our new flightpath is set to impact Venus:
Of course that means that we have to get the orbiter out of harms way once we seperate our lander or it will impact as well.
After another month we got our first glimpse of venus (to the left of our probe under the solar array):
Time to seperate the Lander from the orbit section:
After the seperation i peformed an burn with orbital section, so that it can insert into an orbit around venus to conduct its science mission:
Venus is already getting big:
Here a comparision between the flight paths of the lander and the satellite:
Our lander is getting close now:
And soon after it plunges into the thick atmosphere of venus:
Meanwhile our satellite made its insertion into a venus orbit:
But back to our Lander. After we slowed down enough we deploy a drogue chute to stabilize our descend:
As we entered the deeper parts of the atmosphere we deploy the main chutes and get rid of the heat shield:
Close to the surface we jettison the main chute and our probe performs a soft landing. Welcome to Venus:
And since you my dear reader made it all through this long AAR, here are two pictures that the actual Venera 9 lander sent back to Earth:
Tnanks a lot for reading! If you want to see more pictures of the surface of venus that were made during the whole Venera program, i recommend this great side: http://www.mentallandscape.com/C_CatalogVenus.htm