In 1962 the shortened 79-minute dubbed release from Crown International Pictures substituted the title First Spaceship on Venus for the English-speaking market. The film was released theatrically in the U.S. on a double bill with the re-edited version of the 1958 Japanese film Varan the Unbelievable.
In 1985 engineers involved in an industrial project to irrigate the Gobi Desert accidentally unearth a mysterious and apparently artificial "spool". When found to be made of a material unknown on Earth, the spool is circumstantially linked to the Tunguska explosion of 1908. The spool is seized on as evidence that the explosion, originally blamed on a meteor, was actually caused by an alien spaceship.
Professor Harringway deduces the craft must have come from Venus. The spool itself is determined to be a flight recorder and is partially decoded by an international team of scientists led by Professor Sikarna and Dr. Tchen Yu. When radio greetings sent to Venus go unanswered, Harringway announces that a journey to Venus is the only alternative. The recently completed Soviet spaceship Cosmostrator intended to voyage to Mars, is redirected to Venus, a 30- to 31-day journey. During the voyage, Sikarna works furiously to translate the alien message using the spaceship's computer.
When their spaceship nears Venus, radio interference from the planet cuts the crew off from Earth. By then, Sikarna's efforts lead to a stunning discovery: The spool describes a Venusian plan to irradiate the Earth's surface, with the extermination of mankind being the prelude to an invasion. Rather than containing a "cosmic document", as had been expected, the spool bears a cold-blooded message of destruction. Harringway convinces the crew to press on towards Venus rather than return to Earth with news that would panic mankind.
With the ship's robot, Omega, American astronaut Brinkman pilots a one-man landing craft. On the ground, he encounters an industrial complex and finds small recording devices that look like insects. The rest of the crew follows when Cosmostrator lands, but they find no Venusian life forms. Journeying across the planet, they find the remains of a deserted and blasted city centered around a huge crater, signs of a catastrophic explosion so intense that shadowy forms of humanoid Venusians are permanently burned on to the walls of the surviving buildings.
The Venusians are gone, but their machines remain functioning, including the radiation-bombardment machine intended for Earth. One of the scientists accidentally triggers the weapon, leading to a frantic effort by the Earthmen to disarm it. Tchen Yu lowers Talua, the ship's communication officer, into the Venusian command center. When Tchen Yu's suit is punctured, Brinkman ventures out to save him. Before he can reach Yu, Talua succeeds in reversing the weapon. Unfortunately, this also reverses Venus' gravitational field, flinging Cosmostrator into space. Brinkman is also repelled off the planet, beyond the reach of the spaceship, while Talua and Tchen Yu remain marooned on Venus. The surviving crew members must return to Earth, where they warn humanity about the dangers of atomic weapons.Günther Simon as Raimund Brinkman (Robert in the US release), the Kosmokrator's German pilot
Julius Ongewe as Talua, the African communications officer
Yoko Tani as Dr. Sumiko Ogimura, the Japanese medical officer
Oldrich Lukes as Professor Harringway Hawling, the American commander
Ignacy Machowski as Professor Saltyk (Durand in the US release), the Polish chief engineer
Michail N. Postnikow as Professor Arsenew (Orloff in the US release), the Soviet cosmonaut
Kurt Rackelmann as Professor Sikarna, an Indian mathematician
Tang Hua-Ta as Dr. Chen Yu (Lao Tsu in the US Release), a Chinese linguist.
Lucina Winnicka as Joan Moran, television reporter
Eduard von Winterstein as a nuclear physicist
Ruth Maria Kubitschek as Professor Arsenew's wife
In the film's original East German and Polish release the Earth spaceship sent to Venus is named Kosmokrator.
The film was shot entirely in East Germany.
When first released to European cinemas, the film sold 4,375,094 tickets.
Author Stanislaw Lem, whose novel the film was based upon, was extremely critical of the adaptation.
In a retrospective on Soviet science fiction film, British director Alex Cox compared First Spaceship on Venus to the Japanese film The Mysterians but called the former "more complex and morally ambiguous." Cox also remarked that "Silent Star's images of melted cities and crystallised forests, overhung by swirling clouds of gas, are masterpieces of production design. The scene in which three cosmonauts are menaced, halfway up a miniature Tower of Babel, by an encroaching sea of sludge may not entirely convince, but it is still a heck of a thing to see."
For the U. S. release of First Spaceship on Venus in 1962, the film was cut to a running time of 79 minutes and was double billed with the Japanese film Varan the Unbelievable (1958). All references to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima were edited out. The American character Hawling became a Russian named Orloff. In turn the Russian character named Arseniev became an American named Herringway, while the Polish character Soltyk became the Frenchman named Durand.
The original, uncut version of the film was finally re-released in the U. S. in 2004 under its original title The Silent Star by the DEFA Film Library of the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
In 1980 a short sequence from First Spaceship on Venus was used as a "film-within-a-film" in the low budget feature Galaxina.
In 1990 the film was featured in the second season of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and was released on DVD in 2008 by Shout! Factory, as part of their "MST3K 20th Anniversary Edition" collection.
In 2007 the film was shown on the horror hosted television series Cinema Insomnia. Apprehensive Films later released the Cinema Insomnia episode on DVD.