Science: A Nice, Precise Operation

It blasted off from a secret U.S.S.R. test base—a huge rocket that hurled into orbit a huge satellite. The satellite separated into three parts, and one of them moved outward, leaving the earth's environs forever. Then Moscow announced triumphantly that "an automatic interplanetary station'' weighing 1,419 lbs., emblazoned with the Soviet coat of arms, was on its way to Venus—or thereabouts.

All well and, from the Russian viewpoint, better than good. Even if the Soviet probe never comes anywhere near Venus, the U.S.S.R. can still claim another successful space first: launching an interplanetary vehicle...

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