Despite having reached Venus, the Japanese Akatsuki probe has failed to enter orbit around the planet, instead over-shooting for reasons scientists aren’t yet sure of. “We have found that the orbiter was not injected into the planned orbit as a result of orbit estimation” a Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) spokesperson confirmed earlier today, leaving the team with the choice of either abandoning the probe or attempting a second injection in seven years time.
That’s when Akatsuki will be close enough again to Venus for a second attempt, since there is insufficient fuel on the probe to turn it around and try for anything sooner. The first sign of trouble was a longer-than-expected communications blackout, lasting for over 90 minutes instead of the 22 minutes the JAXA team expected. Akatsuki had taken several months to reach Venus, where it was expected to remain in an elliptical orbit for two years studying weather patterns and surface conditions.