For over forty years, many spacecraft have visited our torrid and caustic neighbor. Missions
have been conducted by the Soviets, NASA and the European Space Agency. With temperatures near
500° C (~900° F) and surface pressures 90 times that of Earth, the carbon dioxide and
sulfuric acid atmosphere has destroyed surface craft within hours of touchdown. Nevertheless,
these brief observations provided the only direct images of the Venerean surface.
Orbiting spacecraft have fared much better and almost all of the surface has been mapped to some
extent. The thick cloud cover precludes direct observation of the surface, so tools such as
Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) have been employed. The most comprehensive high resolution
visualization of Venus was acquired by NASA's Magellan mission between 1990 and 1994. Recently,
ESA has begun the Venus Express mission, which arrived in 2006 and is expected to continue
The Venus Add-on for NASA World Wind depicts the high resolution SAR imagery
accumulated by Magellan. These highly detailed maps are presented in color and grayscale. The
craters, mountains, valleys and other geographic features of the surface are identified by type.
Craters and surface features are named for famous women goddesses and mythical figures from many
different cultures. Entry points and landing sites of the various surface and atmospheric missions
are also illustrated.