Science: Moscow's Postcards from Venus

First color photos of a torrid surface stir envy in Houston

The pictures were somewhat fuzzy and the hues none too bright. But no one was complaining. The images presented remarkable, virtually unprecedented views of the nearest thing to an extraterrestrial hothouse: the scorching surface of Venus, where temperatures hover around 900° F, and atmospheric pressures are 90 times as heavy as those on earth.

The photographers were Venera (for Venus) 13 and 14, the latest in a series of Soviet robot envoys to the earth's nearest planetary neighbor. Venera 13 lasted two hours and seven minutes on the Venusian griddle, while its...

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