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Japan lost contact with Akatsuki, the only spacecraft to connect Earth to Venus

Japan lost contact with Akatsuki, the only spacecraft to connect Earth to Venus
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The $300 million spacecraft was launched in 2010, but the mission failed to reach the orbit of Venus on the first attempt due to main engine failure. The "Akatsuki" orbited the Sun for five years before finally approaching the planet.

The main mission of "Akatsuki" (also known as Venus Climate Orbiter) is to study the climate of Venus, but currently it may come to an end as JAXA reports a loss of communication. The team, according to the statement, is putting efforts to restore it - this requires adjusting the orientation of the spacecraft and turning the antenna towards Earth.

"Akatsuki", which translates from Japanese as "dawn", has overall completed its mission and in 2018 entered an extended operational phase. Over this time, the spacecraft experienced several malfunctions, and at the end of 2016, two out of its five cameras had to be turned off due to unexplained power fluctuations to avoid draining the power system.

Venus covered in clouds - captured by "Akatsuki". Source: JAXA

At the same time, after 14 years of operation (instead of the expected 4.5), "Akatsuki" has made several important discoveries, including revealing details of the super-rotation phenomenon (where the atmosphere of Venus rotates much faster than the planet itself), as well as detecting gravitational waves and thermal tides that affect the planet's surface, and providing infrared images of the planet.

New missions, including from NASA, the European Space Agency, India, and private Rocket Lab, may be sent to Venus later in this decade.

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