The Pioneer Venus probe was the first American probe to enter the atmosphere of Venus.
The Pioneer Venus Probe was one part of a "multiprobe" spacecraft designed to send four probes from a courier "bus" down through the atmosphere of Venus. The probe contained seven science experiments to collect samples and readings about the atmosphere's composition as it parachuted down to Venus's surface. Entry forces on the probe exceeded 300g, but the probe performed perfectly, sending data back to Earth until its planned crash into the planet's surface, less than an hour after it entered Venus's atmosphere.
In addition to the Pioneer Venus Multiprobe, the Pioneer Venus mission also included the launch of an orbiter on May 20, 1978. The Pioneer Venus Orbiter circled Venus from December 1978 until it burned up in the Venus atmosphere in August 1992.
The Science Center's Pioneer Venus Probe
The Venus Probe on display in the Air and Space Gallery is an engineering model on loan from the National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution.