A large part of the failed mission Cosmos 482, that the Soviet Union launched Venus in March 1972 and was turned into space junk, can soon fall to Earth, even this year.
Cosmos 482 was a sister probe of Venera 8, which in July 1972 became the second probe to land successfully on the surface of Venus, said Don Mitchell, who studies Soviet space history and has great interest in Venus exploration missions in that country.
Venera 8 transmitted data from the surface of Venus for 50 minutes and 11 seconds before succumbing to the harsh conditions of lead melting.
But Cosmos 482 he was stranded in a parking orbit of the Earth, Mitchell told Space.com. A bit of hardware from that failed flight, a heavy tank frame and equipment that was discarded, fell into Earth's atmosphere shortly after. But another part of the ship has remained in Earth orbit.
Venera 8 comprised a spacecraft "bus" and a landing probe. The landing module was a spherical pressure vessel similar in design to the Venera 7 probe of the Soviet Union.
Venera 7 was launched in August 1970 and made the first successful landing of Venus on December 15 of that year. Sent valuable data to Earth from the surface, even if only for a few brief minutes.
Still drifting around the Earth, making one turn every 112 minutes, remains the entrance capsule of the Cosmos 482 mission, a contraption created to withstand the heat of immersion in the dense atmosphere of Venus. The wandering landing mass of Venus is 495 kilos and is protected by a powerful heat shield.
And this piece of space junk will probably survive its inevitable descent back to its home planet, experts say. "Yes, the dropship will survive reentry without problems," said satellite observer Thomas Dorman of the Zeb community in northeastern Oklahoma. "It would be funny if you saw it fall and the parachute was deployed ... but I'm sure the batteries to shoot the pyrotechnics to release the parachute have died a long time ago!"
Like Dorman, the veteran astrophotographer Ralf Vandebergh of the Netherlands has been observing this spacecraft for the past eight years, and has made a new evaluation of Cosmos 482.
"My preliminary conclusion of Cosmos 482, when observing the use of a 10-inch aperture telescope during variable passes, viewing angles, lighting angles and observation conditions, [es que] it seems to be an elongated object with strong variations of brightness, "Vandebergh told Space.com." There are indications of smaller structures, but they are not confirmed. Despite the successful results, the mystery surrounding the true condition of Cosmos 482 and what elements of the spacecraft are still in orbit have not yet been resolved.
Meanwhile, Dorman recently captured Cosmos 482 with his sky observation team. His images showed the object on fire. A spherical object like the Venus descent capsule apparently does not burn, he said, suggesting that more parts of the upper spacecraft's 'bus' was still intact.
"Our guess is that maybe as much as 40 to 50 percent of the upper spacecraft's 'bus' can still be there," Dorman told Space.com. "It's interesting to note that the orbit's apogee is beginning to slow down slowly. the reentry will arrive between the end of this year and the middle of next", He said.
Dorman said that Cosmos 482 is in an orbit that moves away from Earth more than 2,735 kilometers away, but the lowest point, the perigee of the orbit, is only 200 kilometers above our planet.