Image of Magellan orbiting Venus.
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On May 4, 1989, Magellan was carried into space by the Atlantis space shuttle, which launched it toward Venus. It arrived on Aug. 10, 1990 and inserted itself into orbit.
Over the next 3 years, Magellan used radar to penetrate the dense cloud cover surrounding Venus and map 98% of its surface. Data sent back to Earth also allowed scientists to develop 3-D images of the planet's terrain and better understand its gravity.
After orbiting Venus for four years, the Magellan spacecraft plunged into its atmosphere, testing a new technique for controlling surface descent. Although it was crushed by the planet's pressure, scientists learned valuable information that would be used in future missions.
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