The Japanese space probe Akatsuki has just entered orbit around our closest neighbor, Venus.
Japan’s space agency has announced that its Akatsuki probe has just entered into orbit around Venus after failing to reach the planet five years ago — but what will it find on our mysterious neighbor?
It’s the first time a Japanese space probe has entered orbit around another planet, truly an exciting milestone for the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), according to an Agence France Presse report.
The probe appears to be functioning well and will begin a three-month initial observation before beginning full observation in April.
Akatsuki, which cost about $205 million, lifted off back in 2010 as scientists sought to learn more about the toxic atmosphere and volcanic surface of Venus, which is even closer to us than Mars.
The mission failed on its first approach, shooting right past Venus instead of getting sucked into its gravitational pull, and scientists had to turn it around and make a second attempt. This time, they were successful.
Another Japanese space probe, dubbed Hayabusa 2, has been quite busy lately as well, passing by Earth as it gets ready to use our gravitational pull to catapult to an asteroid far from here as scientists seek to learn more about the origins of our solar system. Hayabusa 2 is on a six-year mission to bring back mineral samples from the asteroid after being launched a year ago. It is expected to reach the asteroid in mid-2018, with soil samples to be returned to Earth in late 2020.
From the JAXA news release: “The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) successfully inserted the Venus Climate Orbiter “AKATSUKI” into the orbit circling around Venus. As a result of measuring and calculating the AKATSUKI’s orbit after its thrust ejection, the orbiter is now flying on the elliptical orbit at the apoapsis altitude of about 440,000 km and periapsis altitude of about 400 km from Venus. The orbit period is 13 days and 14 hours. We also found that the orbiter is flying in the same direction as that of Venus’s rotation.”