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Venera 3: I'm reading New Cosmic Horizons: Space Astronomy from the V2 to the Hubble Space Telescope, by David Leverington. When I read a sentence like "The exact mission of Venera 3 is a mystery even today," the science fiction author in me (or, more accurately, coextensive with me) sits up and takes notice. But, the book was published in 2001, so I went to the Internet to see if the Venera 3 mystery had been resolved.

As it turns out, the book has more information on Venera 3 than the Internet does, so I'm putting up a quote. All the Internet's English-language information derives from this NASA page, which is contradicted by New Cosmic Horizons (p73-74):

The exact mission of Venera 3 is a mystery even today. The Russian Academician Leonid Sedov said early on in the flight that it was a twin of Venera 2 and was to take photographs as it flew by Venus on the opposite side to Venera 2. The Soviet news agency TASS, on the other hand, said that Venera 3 included a landing capsule which replaced the photographic module of Venera 2. TASS also said that communications were lost just before the lander was due to separate from the main spacecraft, and that Venera 3 struck the surface at 9.56 a.m. Moscow time on 1st March 1966. [This is also what the NASA page says.] For some time it was thought in the West that Venera 3 was the first spacecraft to have impacted Venus, but later information showed that communications had been lost some three months earlier than stated by the Russians, so whether the spacecraft had hit Venus or not can only be a matter of surmise.

There are no endnotes in the book, so I don't know what this "later information" is. But if you lose contact before the lander separates, whether it's immediately before or three months before, I don't think you get to say with any certainty that the lander successfully landed.


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