Carl Sagan once said that Venus is the planet in our solar system most like hell. So when are we going back?

卡尔·萨根曾经说过,金星是我们太阳系中最像地狱的行星。那么,我们什么时候能重返那里呢?

Astronomers on Monday reported the detection of a chemical in the acidic Venusian clouds, phosphine, which may be a possible sign of life. That has some planetary scientists itching to return to the sun’s second planet, especially those who feel Venus has long been overlooked in favor of Mars and other destinations.

9月14日,天文学家报告称在金星的酸性云层中发现了化学物质磷化氢,这可能是生命存在的迹象。这让一些行星科学家十分渴望能够重返太阳系的第二颗行星,尤其是那些认为比起火星和其他星球,金星长期以来都被忽视的科学家。

“forget this Mars nonsense,” said Paul Byrne, a planetary scientist at North Carolina State University. “We need a lander, an orbiter, we need a program.”

“忘记关于火星的废话吧,”北卡罗来纳州立大学的行星科学家保罗·伯恩说。“我们需要着陆器,轨道飞行器,我们需要一个探索金星的项目。”


But that hasn’t stopped human space programs from trying. About 40 robotic spacecraft launched by governments on Earth have tried to visit Venus in one way or another. Here are highlights from past journeys to Venus, as well as the prospects for a speedy return to the planet to find out what’s going on in those clouds.

但这并没有阻止人类太空计划的尝试。地球上的各国政府已经发射了约40个航天器,试图以各种方式登上金星。以下是历史上人类探索金星之旅的努力,以及在未来快速飞往金星、探索金星厚重云层之下的神秘世界的展望。

The many Soviet visitors to Venus

来自苏联的访客


After seeing their first round of spacecraft sent into the atmosphere squashed like tin cans, the Soviets realized just how extreme the pressure on Venus was. This trial and error led to the construction of five-ton metal spacecraft built to withstand, even if for just an hour, the immense surface pressures.

在看到第一批被送入金星大气层的航天器像易拉罐一样被压扁后,苏联人意识到金星上的压力有多大。经过这样的反复试错,他们建造了一个五吨重的金属航天器,可以承受巨大的表面压力,但仅能维持1个小时的时间。


In 1985 the Soviet unx concluded its Venus encounters with the twin Vega spacecraft, which each released large balloons loaded with scientific instruments, demonstrating the potential for probes that could float in the planet’s clouds.

苏联对金星的最后探索是1985年“维加”计划发射的双子探测器,它们各自释放了巨大气球,证明了探测器漂浮在金星云层中的可能性。

The slowed pace of the Soviet space program toward the end of the Cold War halted launches to Venus. While the Russian space program has discussed future exploration of Venus, its concepts have not moved off the drawing board.

到冷战末期,苏联太空计划的放缓令其暂时停止了对金星发射探测器。虽然俄罗斯的太空计划已经讨论过未来对金星的探索,但其概念仅仅停留在图纸上。

NASA kept its sights on Venus, too

NASA(美国国家航空航天局)也把目光投向了金星

While Mars has always seemed like the apple of the eyes of American space planners, the Mariner and Pioneer programs of the 1960s and ’70s made time for Venus.

虽然火星一直被美国太空规划者视为掌上明珠,但1960和70年代的“水手”与“先驱”计划仍留给了金星。

Mariner 2 was the first American spacecraft to make it to Venus, in 1962. It determined that temperatures were cooler higher in the clouds, but extremely hot on the surface.

1962年,“水手2号”成为首个抵达金星的美国探测器。它探测到金星高空云层的温度较低,但表面非常热。

In 1978, the Pioneer missions gave American researchers a closer look. The first of the pair orbited the planet for nearly 14 years, revealing much about the mysterious Venusian atmosphere. It also observed the surface was smoother than Earth’s, and that Venus had very little or perhaps no magnetic field. A second Pioneer mission sent a number of probes into Venus’s atmosphere, returning information on the structure of the clouds and radar readings of the surface.

1978年,先驱计划让美国研究者对金星有了更深入的了解。其中第一次任务环绕金星运行近14年,揭示了很多关于神秘的金星大气层的信息。它还观察到金星表面比地球光滑,而且磁场很弱,甚至可能没有磁场。第二次先驱计划向金星大气层发射了一些探测器,送回了关于金星云层结构和表面雷达探测数据的信息。

NASA’s Magellan entered into orbit in 1990 and spent four years mapping the surface and looking for evidence of plate tectonics. It discovered that nearly 85 percent of the surface was covered in old lava flows, hinting at significant past and possible present volcanic activity.

1990年,NASA的“麦哲伦号”探测器进入金星轨道,用四年时间绘制了金星表面图,并寻找其板块运动的证据。它发现近85%的金星表面被古老的熔岩流所覆盖,表明金星曾经有、现在也可能有火山活动。

It was also the last of the American visitors, although a number of NASA spacecraft have used Venus as a slingshot as they set course for other destinations.

谁知,“麦哲伦号”探测器竟成了最后一位美国访客,其后,NASA的一些探测器在前往其他目的地航线时,曾把金星当作引力弹弓使用。

Other visitors to Venus

金星的其他访客

Venus Express was launched by the European Space Agency in 2005. It orbited the planet for eight years and observed that it still may have been geologically active.

2005年,“金星快车”由欧洲航天局发射升空。它环绕金星运行了八年,观察到它仍可能有地质活动性。



Who’s next?

谁是下一个访客?

Many missions back to Venus have been proposed, and some space agencies have declared ambitions of visiting the planet. But it’s hard to say whether any will make the trip.

许多重返金星的任务已经被提出,一些太空机构已经宣布了前往金星的计划。但很难说是否能够成功。

India’s space agency has proposed a mission called Shukrayaan-1, which will orbit the planet and primarily focus on the chemistry of the atmosphere.

印度航天局提出了一项名为“舒克拉雅1号”的任务,它围绕金星运行,主要关注其大气层的化学成分。

Peter Beck, the founder of Rocket Lab, a private company started in New Zealand that has launched about a dozen rockets to space, has recently spoken of sending a small satellite to the planet.

彼得·贝克是火箭实验室的创始人,这家在新西兰成立的私人企业已经向太空发射了十多枚火箭,最近,他谈到了要向金星发射一颗小型卫星的计划。



NASA, however, did provide money for some of the technologies that Vici would need. And Venus proponents may have a new advocate inside NASA. Lori S. Glaze, the principal investigator of Vici, is now the planetary science division director at NASA.

不过,NASA确实为金星探测项目需要的一些技术提供了资金。而且NASA内部或许又有了一位新的金星任务支持者。金星探测项目的首席研究员洛瑞·S·格蕾斯,如今是NASA的行星科学部主任。

The agency will have another chance to pick a Venus mission for funding in the next round of its Discovery program.

在下一轮“发现”计划中,金星探测项目将有新的机会获得资助。