You no doubt heard the mindblowing news that astronomers have detected phosphine within the clouds of Venus, hinting that this scorching planet might perhaps harbor signs of life. The discovery has, by no surprise, inspired a renewed interest in Earth's Evil Twin with many organizations already announcing they're looking to further investigate the planet in the quest to find alien life, and some planning on visiting even sooner.
But for those tempted to visit, the Russian space agency has got a message for you: Venus is hell and it’s Russian.
Dmitry Rogozin, the top dog at Roscosmos, told TASS news agency on Tuesday: “We believe that Venus is a Russian planet.”
“Our country was the first and only one to successfully land on Venus,” he added. “The spacecraft gathered information about the planet – it is like hell over there.”
In his possibly trolling comments, Rogozin is harking back to the USSR’s Venera program. The pièce de résistance of this Soviet-era program was Venera-7, which landed on the Venusian surface on December 15, 1970, marking the first time a spacecraft successfully made a soft landing on another planet. Its successor Venera-9 took the first image of the Venusian surface, the first time a lander had returned images from the surface of another planet.
His comments about the planet being "like hell" make reference to the extreme conditions of Venus, a planet with a surface temperature of 470°C (880°F) and clouds of sulfuric acid so hot it can melt lead.
The spirit of the Soviet's Venera program was also evoked in a statement released by Roscosmos earlier this week about the recent US/UK-led discovery of phosphine in the upper atmosphere of Venus. Along with subtly downplaying the discovery, Roscosmos affirmed that evidence of life on Venus can only be obtained through contact studies of the planet, such as ones carried out through the Venera program.
“Notably, the USSR was the only country to conduct regular explorations of Venus using on-planet stations,” read the statement. “A huge breakaway of the Soviet Union from its competitors in the exploration of Venus contributed to the fact that the USA called Venus a ‘Soviet planet’.”
Roscosmos also talked about Venera-D, a proposed program that could send an orbiter and a lander to Venus within the next 11 years. It was previously floated that the program would involve some collaboration with NASA, but this new statement from Roscosmos says it's now being considered "as a national project without involving wide international cooperation."
Rogozin, the former Russian ambassador to NATO and former Deputy Prime Minister of Russia, is no stranger to outlandish comments and his unique brand of Russian humor. In one of his faintly surreal video blogs, he can be heard making jokes about how it's impossible to bribe traffic cameras because they don’t contain any holes to stick the money in. In another, he also wryly speaks about a historian's theory that Napoleon lost the Battle of Waterloo because he had hemorrhoids, hence the expression “a pain in the butt.”
So, his comments about Venus being “Russian” should be taken with a pinch of salt rather than as a declaration of war. As others have pointed, it seems like Rogozin is just a master troll.