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.

Read the rest of the story: Troubled Japanese Venus Probe May Get Early Shot at Redemption.

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