The scientific tourist #151 — Vega

This is an engineering model of the Vega spacecraft at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum — the main “bus” (the white part), as well as the entry capsule (the brown part).


In 1984, the Soviet Union launched two of these spacecraft. They flew past Venus (dropping off their balloons and landers on the way), then went on to pass through the tail of Halley’s Comet in 1986. The comet flybys were actually a late addition to the program — originally the spacecraft were to be fairly simple updates to earlier Venera series Venus spacecraft. But the U.S. dropped plans for a dedicated Halley spacecraft in 1981, so the two Soviet craft were re-tasked to take on take data at the comet as part of an international cooperative agreement. The name “Vega” is a contraction of “Venera” and “Gallei,” the Russian words for “Venus” and “Halley,” respectively.

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