The ancient Egyptians and Greeks thought Venus was actually two separate objects; a morning star and an evening star. Now we know that Venus isn’t a star at all, although it still maintains its nicknames of morning and evening star. When Venus is trailing the sun, it’s at its brightest and comes into view just after the sun sets; it becomes the Evening Star. When Venus leads the sun as it travels across the sky, it will rise in the morning a few hours before the sun; it then becomes the Morning Star. Currently Venus is the Morning Star, rising in the East along the horizon with Jupiter.
Several joint missions of probes and orbiters have been sent to study Venus since 1961. According to NASA the first was called “Sputnik 7” launched by the USSR in February of 1961. There have been many since then, but recently the “Akatauki” launched by Japan in May, 2010, failed in its mission but will return in 2015. The ESA (European Space Agency) will launch an orbiter named “Bepi Colombo” in July, 2016. This is scheduled as a Mercury orbiter with a fly-by of Venus. A complete mission timeline of probes and orbiters can be found at the NASA site:
We do know that Venus has mountains, valleys and over 1600 volcanoes, many of which are still active. But we don’t know everything about Venus. Did it once have water? Why does Venus have lightning but no rain? Did you know that Friday (Friga and dae) came from the words meaning, “Venus day?”
My sources: Universetoday.com, PlanetFacts.net, Kidsastronomy.com, Solarsystem.nasa.gov, Space.com, en.wikipedia.org/Venus, Planetfacts.net, and randomhistory.com/Venus, and Stardate.com.