Feb. 12, 1961 Think it's hard to reach a moon just 240,000 miles from home? Try a planet 49 million miles away. Russia pulled it off with its Venera 1 spacecraft. Just launching the thing, which weighed in at 1,419 lb., was a little like putting a cow in space, never mind steering it toward Venus and staying in touch with it throughout its three-month trip. As it happened, that last part didn't work out so well. Within a week of the launch, radio contact was lost. Nevertheless, remote sensing was able to track it as it flew within 60,000 miles of Venus and then entered orbit around the sun. More hooting from Khrushchev and teeth-gnashing in Washington followed.