A Japanese Probe That Was Lost in Space for 5 Years Has Finally Made it to Venus

Akatsuki gets second time lucky.
December 7, 2015, 4:10pm
Akatsuki finally makes it into Venus' orbit after five years. Image: JAXA, Courtesy of Akihiro Ikeshita

There's exciting news for a Japanese spacecraft dubbed Akatsuki. After being lost in space for five years, the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) fired up Akatsuki's thrusters at 8:51 AM JST on Monday so that it could get a second chance at orbiting Venus.

Back in 2010, Akatsuki was launched into space to study the surface of Venus. While the spacecraft reached the planet on 7 December 2010, it didn't quite enter orbit around it owing to a faulty engine valve.

This time, however, the spacecraft got second time lucky. National Geographic reports that an hour after JAXA started up the thrusters, Akatsuki had entered Venus's orbit.

[from Akatsuki team] Current distance of Akatsuki from Venus surface is about 32,000 km. Venus subtends 18 degrees as viewed from Akatsuki.
— 「あかつき」チーム (@Akatsuki_JAXA) December 6, 2015

"We had a perfect mission," said Masato Nakamura, JAXA's project manager told National Geographic.

Now with Akatsuki orbiting at around 300 to 80,000 km from Venus's surface, we can expect exciting planetary insights in the next couple of months. The spacecraft will be using infrared light to explore the surface of Venus. It will take close-up shots and even observe the storm winds that blow around Venus's surface.