Akatsuki is in business!

The Japanese space probe that wouldn’t quit, Akatsuki, has completed its commissioning phase and is now beginning its primary mission around the planet Venus.  It arrived at Venus five months ago, and five years after it was originally scheduled to do so.  A faulty engine valve prevented its orbit insertion burn from happening, but JAXA mission controllers didn’t give up; they developed a plan using maneuvering thrusters that would give Akatsuki a second chance for orbital insertion.  And last December, it made it.  JAXA is very optimistic about the spacecraft; after completing the in-orbit checkout, they believe it will definitely last its two-year primary mission, and perhaps even make it to the next decade.  To commemorate the start of its operational phase, Akatsuki’s mission team released this infrared image of Venus, showing clouds on the nightside of the planet in unprecedented detail.  (Akatsuki is not the first spacecraft to reach Venus, but it has the best infrared camera ever sent there.)

venus-akatsuki

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