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Short Film Celebrates First Spacecraft to Send Data Back from Another Planet

Venera 4 threw itself into the Venusian inferno so we wouldn’t have to.
Model of Venera-4 station in Memorial Museum of Astronautics. Image: Wikimedia

On June 12, 1967, just under five decades ago, the Soviet Union launched the spacecraft Venera 4 on a historic voyage to Venus. When it arrived at our sister planet on October 18 of the same year, Venera 4 became the first probe ever to transmit data about another planet back to Earth. Not only did this achievement unveil Venus as the face-melting nightmare of a planet we've come to know and love, it also paved the way for every interplanetary probe that has since relayed tactile measurements of other worlds.


Venera mission scientists certainly recognized the value of this accomplishment at the time, and capitalized on it by producing a documentary short commemorating the milestone. The featurette provides a fascinating window into the development, launch, and observations made by Venera 4, rounded out with all the cinematic tropes of the time and place. So if you're in the mood for some Space Race nostalgia, here's a quality fix.

Soviet Venera 4 documentary. Video: AZURNERUB/YouTube

Given the secrecy between the American and Soviet space-faring efforts of this time, it's interesting simply to get a closeup glimpse of the construction and testing process used for Venera 4. There are shots of the lander component being test-deployed from the orbiter, held in place by an elastic harness, as well as outdoor testing of the suspended parachute system. The anatomy and specs of the spacecraft are documented in great detail, along with the onboard suite of instruments that gave humanity its first vicarious taste of an alien world.

The short also highlights how far technology has advanced since the Space Race, in both filmmaking and scientific equipment. For instance, the iconic Soviet Molniya rocket looks strikingly retrofuturist during the launch sequence, though this workhorse vehicle was only retired by Roscosmos in 2010.

Likewise, a segment on the "perfect telescopes" of this era displays equipment that seems outrageously antiquated when stacked against modern supermassive ground telescopes, or space observatories that can discover thousands upon thousands of planets in other solar systems. Forty-nine years doesn't seem like a long time in the scheme of things, until you take a look at the superbly gnarly instruments people were using at the time.

Today, Venera 4 is remembered as the first of many robotic excursions to alien landscapes, from the Moon, to Mars, to comets, to the interstellar void. It definitely deserves a shoutout on its launch anniversary, and mad props for withstanding Venus's punishing atmosphere long enough to tell the tale.