Russia: Meeting Venus

Somewhere on Venus, hidden from Earth's view by that planet's layer of opaque clouds, rests the shattered remains of a space vehicle bearing a hammer-and-sickle emblem. The craft is Venus III. Catching the world by surprise, the Russians last week announced that their probe had crashed into the planet 38 million miles from Earth.

As usual, the Soviet feat raised more questions than it answered. Originally, the Soviets had launched two large (about one ton each) space vehicles—Venus II and III—within one week of each other last November. The announced purpose was a flypast on either side of Venus, sending back...

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