Troubled Akatsuki Venus Probe May Get Earlier Redemption

A Japanese spacecraft that overshot Venus last month may get a chance to redeem itself one year earlier than scientists had originally thought.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is now considering trying to send the Akatsuki spacecraft into orbit around Venus five years from now.

Previously, JAXA officials had said a second try could be attempted sometime between December 2016 and January 2017 after Akatsuki missed its Venus arrival. An earlier attempt to swing back on course would be welcome news for the Akatsuki spacecraft and mission team.

Lost Venus spacecraft

The $300 million Akatsuki spacecraft — whose name means "dawn" in Japanese — got within 342 miles (550 kilometers) of Venus the night of Dec. 6, after more than six months of interplanetary travel. It began firing its thrusters in an orbital-insertion burn, a maneuver designed to slow the craft enough to allow the planet’s gravity snag it.

The thrusters were supposed to fire for 12 minutes, but they conked out after only 2 1/2 minutes, JAXA officials have said. An unexpected pressure drop in the spacecraft’s fuel line — or possibly damage to the probe’s engine nozzle — are the likely causes, they added.

As a result, the Akatsuki probe sailed right past Venus, scuttling its mission to study the planet’s hellish climate and weather in unprecedented detail.

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Japan’s Akatsuki probe reached Venus, preparing to orbit

A Japanese probe reached Venus on Tuesday and prepared to enter orbit on a two-year mission that would mark a major milestone for Japan’s space program and could shed light on the climate of Earth’s mysterious neighbor.

The probe, called Akatsuki, which means "dawn," would be the first Japan has ever placed into orbit around another planet and comes after the country recently brought a probe back from a trip to an asteroid.

Other space programs, including the Americans’ and the Europeans’, have successfully launched missions to orbit other planets.

Scientists said they briefly lost contact with the probe early Tuesday. They encountered new communication problems later in the day and were not able to confirm if it was successful.

Agency spokesman Tsutomu Yoshioka said it would take several more hours than expected to determine the probe’s status.

Japan has been overshadowed in recent years by the big strides of China, which has put astronauts in space twice since 2003 and was the third country to send a human into orbit after Russia and the United States,

However, Japan has long been one of the world’s leading space-faring nations. It was the first Asian country to put a satellite in orbit around the Earth — in 1970 — and has developed a highly reliable booster rocket in its H-2 series.

Read the rest of the story:Japan probe reaches Venus, prepares to enter orbit.