The 1970s is making a comeback — and, no, we’re not talking about a return of platform shoes, disco, and movies about angry antihero males who don’t make it out alive, man. Instead, we’re referring to the reported return to Earth of failed Russian probe Kosmos 482. Launched by the Soviet Union almost half a century ago on March 31, 1972, Kosmos 482 was intended as a planetary probe that would travel to Venus. This feat had previously been successfully carried out by the USSR’s Venera 7 probe in 1970, which became the first spacecraft to land on another planet and transmit data back to Earth.
Sadly, Kosmos 482 wasn’t quite so lucky. Launched four days after sister probe Venera 8, it failed to leave Earth’s orbit due to a timer error and got stuck as a result. Kosmos 482 broke into multiple pieces, with some parts crash landing in New Zealand soon after launch. While laws dictate that space junk be returned to its national owner, ownership of the pieces was denied by the Soviet Union, although their origin was revealed by manufacturing marks and other distinguishing characteristics. Meanwhile, the surviving 1,000-pound, spherical descent-and-landing capsule has been orbiting the Earth at 112-minute intervals ever since.
Until now, that is. According to a recent report from Space.com, the remains of Kosmos 482 are likely to crash back to Earth within the next two or three years — or possibly even as early as 2019. While its landing back on Earth may not be the most triumphant re-entry in history, experts claim that the piece of Soviet space debris will most likely survive its descent. That’s despite the likelihood that the batteries to fire the pyrotechnics for releasing the parachute failed years ago. Hopefully, it won’t be long before it’s installed in a museum someplace.
Space flight has certainly come a long way in the years since Kosmos 482 was last on terra firma. The most recent Venus-related mission to launch was a joint mission between the European Space Agency (ESA) and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), launched in October 2018. BepiColombo is ultimately scheduled to carry out a comprehensive study of Mercury, where it will hopefully arrive in December 2025. On the way ,it will carry out two flybys of Venus.