On May 17th 1969 the Soviet Union dropped the Venera 6 probe into the Venusian atmosphere, one day after deploying the Venera 5 probe. While the USA were focused on putting men on the moon the CCCP were continuing their series of explorations of Venus.
The Venera program ran from 1961 with the failure of Venera 1 until the successful Venera 16 stopped sending data in 1984.
The Venera 5 and Venera 6 probes were deemed successful missions. Each operated for over 50 minutes as they descended by parachute through the atmosphere, sending back data to Russia.
In 1972 the Russians recorded the first successful landing of a craft on another planet with the Venera 8 lander. Venera 7 had landed successfully but rolled awkwardly and was able to send back only very limited data, so was deemed a failure.
In 1975 the Venera 9 lander returned the first images from another planet.
If Nasa and the Soviet Union had maintained the momentum of the 1960’s and 70’s we would have a colony on Mars today. Now it seems that Mars may be the story of commercial space exploration. SpaceX, the Elon Musk led agency is working on the Big Falcon rocket to ship cargo in 2022 with a plan to send men in 2024.
The Russians and Europeans have developed the EXOMARS2020 program combining an ESA Rover and an ROSCOSMOS landing platform. To this day the Russians are still building the best launch vehicles. If you want to put a man in space you talk to the Russians.
NASA have a rover mission on the books for 2020.
The Chinese plan a Mars landing in 2020.
The UAE Space Agency also plan a Mars mission in 2021.
It may now be time to start thinking about how the solar system will be carved up. Will it become a new Antarctica, dedicated to science in favour of national or commercial interests? Or will the solar system become another “Scramble for Africa” as nations and businesses compete to establish exclusive ownership of areas of planets, asteroids or even areas of space?