I can find barely any historical documentation on this subject.

If you know anything about its development, please chip in as well.

I'm writing a paper on the missions and putting them into historical context, mainly their impact on the space race.

I did a lot of Googling, and a lot of information is available on the technicalities, but nearly nothing I found puts the missions into historical context.

Even simple things such as who worked on these probes is hard to find. I believe BBC stated that this is because a lot of things were kept in secret.

However, I found and ordered a nice book - Soviet Robots in the Solar System: Mission Technologies and Discoveries

It outlines some of the key players behind the Soviet space scene, and goes a bit into internal politics and development, but nothing on secrecy or wide impact on the space race is said.

Basically at this point I'm trying to figure out why most(some of the missions were spun-off as successful even though they didn't achieve their goal.) of the info was secret and only released when USSR fell, and how everyone else reacted to the information released. I can't find which particular missions were kept in secret.

I know it's a pretty loaded question, but I just can't seem to find anything to be able to scope it down. Year ~64 onwards.

  • 1
    Welcome to History.SE. This is the beginning of a good question, but it would be helpful if you could give some more context to your question, and maybe some links to demonstrate what research you've already done. That will likely help you get better answers.
    – two sheds
    Dec 15, 2014 at 19:44
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    Should probably go to space.SE
    – Oldcat
    Dec 15, 2014 at 19:57
  • 1
    I take the question to be more about social and political reactions to the missions, so I think the question is a good fit here. However, some clarification by OP of the question's scope would be helpful.
    – two sheds
    Dec 15, 2014 at 20:00
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    Note that the Venera missions spanned 1961-84, a period during which Western-Soviet relations were by no means constant. This article on the NASA 50th Anniversary website has a good deal of background information about US-Soviet co-operation during the general period: United States-Soviet Space Cooperation During the Cold War. Dec 17, 2014 at 12:18
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    I agree that the question is a good fit here, but it may be worth asking on Space.SE if re-formulated to fit there as well (as long as it's not simply copypasted)
    – DVK
    Dec 22, 2014 at 14:06

2 Answers 2


The basic organisational reason for all the secrecy and spin-doctoring of the Soviet space program was that they had no equivalent of NASA running it. It was run out of the back pocket of the Strategic Rocket Forces, the Soviet armed service that was responsible for long-range missiles.

The ICBM generals had a force to run, and improved missiles to build, and the kinds of rockets you need for space exploration are significantly different from ICBMs. The political leadership wanted space spectaculars, but didn't set up an appropriate organisation to produce them. So the space program was always short of money and time, and making things up as it went along, rather than having a coherent plan. The Vostok spacecraft was designed primarily as a photo-reece satellite; the Soyuz was originally designed for military purposes as much as exploration; several of the Salyut space stations were a military model, and the N-1 moon rocket was doomed because the designers could not get the proper materials.

In the early 1970s, when I was a teenager reading all I could get about space and astronomy, it was known that probes had been sent to Venus, and they hadn't been all that successful, but that was about all.



Basically at this point I'm trying to figure out why most (some of the missions were spinned-off as successful even though they didn't achieve their goal.) of the info was secret and only released when USSR fell, and how everyone else reacted to the information released. I can't find which particular missions were kept in secret.

The Soviet space program was classified. A major component of the Soviet as well as the Western space program was for propaganda value. The west as an open society had to live with some of it's public failures and near failures. The Soviets didn't. They regularly would not announce launches until success was certain and failures were covered up.

Remember Laika? 1957, the first animal launched into Earth orbit. A landmark technological and political accomplishment which eclipsed United States capabilities at the time. The West knew little about the effects of space flights on living creatures and nothing about de-orbiting. The West also didn't know the Soviets didn't know how to de-orbit a capsule either. Laika died on reentry. The West found out about it decades later. The Soviets never planned for her to survive.

Other notable Soviet setbacks which the West only found out about during Gorbachev's policy of glasnost in the 1980s:

  • deaths of Korolev, details of deaths of Vladimir Komarov (in the Soyuz 1 crash), *see below
  • death of Yuri Gagarin (on a routine fighter jet mission) - First human to reach outer space, and first to orbit earth.
  • development failure of the huge N-1 rocket intended to power a manned lunar landing, which exploded shortly after lift-off on four unmanned tests.

(*) (on Soyuz 1) More than four decades later, details about the tragedy have steadily trickled into the Western consciousness…and they have revealed a harrowing disaster, still shrouded in myth, mystery and rumor.

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    Komarov's death was made public - Deke Slayton went to his funeral as a representative of US astronauts. We knew about the failures of the N1 because our spy satellites picked up the explosions. Intelligence analysis first thought the first N1 failure might have been a nuke detonation, the explosion was so large. And we knew about the Soviet Zond project to orbit a man around the moon in early 1969 - that was one of the reasons that Apollo 8 made the somewhat risky trip to the moon after only one orbital flight of the Apollo spacecraft.
    – tj1000
    Dec 11, 2017 at 3:10
  • Yes we knew about the crash of Soyuz 1 but we didn’t find out what actuallly happened until glasnost
    – user27618
    Dec 11, 2017 at 3:56
  • Didn’t know about the 203 structural errors they found before the launch. About the attempts byGargarin to get the flight canceled. About the demotions, or about what Komarov knew and said before the flight and experienced in flight
    – user27618
    Dec 11, 2017 at 4:22
  • Your right I worded it poorly, corrected my answer. thank you for the correction.
    – user27618
    Dec 11, 2017 at 12:55

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