Higher, Faster, Farther: 1970-1996

Hughes Space and Communications Co. ... Venus and Beyond

During 1978, Hughes Space and Communications began building spacecraft for the Pioneer Venus mission. One was an orbiter, which would pierce the planet's perpetual veil of clouds with radar and map its surface. The second was a multiprobe vehicle, which would collect data and parachute four probes into the Venusian atmosphere.

The probes would perform scientific tests during descent, until entry forces and extreme heat destroyed them. One of the small probes survived both the landing impact and the lead-melting surface temperature of 900 degrees Fahrenheit for more than an hour, enabling it to transmit valuable data.

The orbiter functioned until October 1992. It studied passing comets, including Halley's in 1986, measured Venus' clouds and atmosphere and gave scientists new insights into acid rain and the greenhouse effect on Earth. It sent NASA more than 10 trillion bits of data.

Hughes Space and Communications also worked on two other NASA interplanetary programs, Magellan and Galileo. The Hughes radar mapper, aboard Magellan, from 1989 until 1993 mapped 98 percent of Venus' surface. In 1995, the Hughes-built Galileo probe played a leading role in the first mission to explore the atmosphere of Jupiter.

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