Good evening, in 1959, on the day that I was born, a headline in Life magazine proclaimed Target Venus, There May Be Life There.
It told of how scientists rode a balloon to an altitude of 80,000 feet to make telescope observations of Venus's atmosphere
and how their discovery of water raised hopes that there could be living things there.
As a kid, I thrilled to tales of adventure and Isaac as most juvenile science fiction novel, Lucky Starr and the Oceans of Venus.
For many of my peers, though, Venus quickly lost its romance.
The very first thing that scientists discovered with a mission to another planet was that Venus was not at all the earthly paradise that fiction had portrayed.
It is nearly identical to our own planet and bulk properties such as mass, density, and size.
But its surface has been cooked and dried by an ocean of carbon dioxide, trapped in the burning death grip of a runaway greenhouse effect.
Venus has long been held up as a cautionary tale for everything that could go wrong on a planet like earth.
As a possible home for alien life, it has been voted the planet least likely to succeed.
But I have refused to give up on Venus.
And over the years, my stubborn loyalty has been justified.
The rocky views glimpsed by the Nearer Nine and other Russian landers suggested a tortured volcanic history that was confirmed in the early 1990s by the American Magellan orbiter,
which used radar to peer through the planet's thick clouds and map out a rich, varied and dynamic surface.
The surface formed mostly in the last billion years, which makes it fresher and more recently active than any rocky planet other than earth.
Russian and American spacecraft also found hints that its ancient climate might have been wetter, cooler, and possibly even friendly to life.
Measurements of density and composition imply that Venus originally formed out of basically the same stuff as earth that presumably included much more water than the tiny trace we find blowing in the thick air today.
Thus, our picture of Venus at around that time life was getting started on earth is one of warm oceans, probably rich with organic molecules splashing around rocky shores and volcanic vents.
The sun was considerably less bright back then.
So, Venus was arguably a cozy, a habitat for life than earth.
19.What do we learn from the Life magazine article?
20.What are scientists' findings about Venus?
21.What information did Russian and American space probes provide about Venus?