AKATSUKI arrives at Venus

Akatsuki at VenusThe Japanese space probe AKATSUKI, launched in 2010 but left in an orbit around the sun by an engine glitch, catches up with its original target, the planet Venus, and fires its attitude control thrusters. The lengthy engine burn slows AKATSUKI enough to be captured by Venus’ gravity, in an elliptical 13-day orbit that brings the probe within 250 miles of the Venusian clouds it was sent to study at its closest, and nearly a quarter million miles away from the planet at the furthest. Another engine burn is planned for March 2016 to circularize and shorten AKATSUKI’s orbit so it can begin its observations of the planet’s weather patterns.