Akatsuki enters orbit, set for two-year mission

In June, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) Hayabusa probe captured samples from the asteroid Itokawa and with the help of NASA and three American teens, landed successfully in Australia. 

Although Japan has never attempted a manned flight, in 1970 it was the first Asian nation to put a satellite in orbit around the Earth.

Now the country's first ever probe to reach a planet is attempting to orbit Venus for a two-year mission.  

According to Japan's space agency, the Planet-C Venus Climate Orbiter (also called Akatsuki, which means dawn), had lost contact with the ground crew. While Akatsuki is struggling in its attempt, scientists anticipate that it will be successfully injected.

This would be the first time that Japan has achieved this effort.  In 1998, the Nozomi Mars mission experienced technical difficulties while attempting to place probes in orbit around Mars.  

JAXA launched the Akatsuki probe in May. The meteorological satellite is expected to monitor weather patterns on the planet. 

Equipped with infrared cameras, the 25 billion yen ($300 million USB) project is designed to track volcanic activity, determine whether the planet has lightning, provide data on cloud cover and climate, and monitor the intensity of surface winds (which scientists believe can reach speeds of up to 220 miles per hour).  Called super-rotation, the winds blow in the same direction the planet rotates, but are 60 times faster according to mission project scientist, Takeshi Imamura.

More information about the Akatsuki probe and its impending journey can be found on the JAXA website or via updates on Twitter.


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