Wednesday, 28 Oct, 2009 Science
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Japan to Send First Spacecraft to Venus

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Japan is preparing a deep space mission to Venus. Engineers nicknamed the mission Akatsuki, which means "dawn". The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency had chosen the name mainly because the planet shines brightly like the morning star before sunrise.

The spacecraft will be the nation's first to be sent to Venus. It is worth mentioning that the spacecraft's mission will be to study the planet's smothering atmosphere. The H-2A rocket, which is expected to be launched from Tanegashima spaceport on May 20, 2010, will have on its board a 1,058-pound robotic probe.

In case everything goes as engineers planned, the spacecraft will reach Venus in December 2010. Akatsuki, which is also called Venus Climate Orbiter, is going to enter the planet's equatorial orbit that extends from slightly above Venus' atmosphere to a 50,000-mile altitude.

The robot will carry out six experiments. During these experiments Akatsuki will be able to study the planet's surface activity. Venus Climate Orbiter features two infrared cameras that will be used to observe the planet's lower level clouds and gather information on active volcanoes.

With the help of a long-wave infrared device and ultraviolet imager, researchers will have the possibility to study cloud tops, as well as follow global storm systems to create wind maps. The night side of the planet will be featured on the images taken by the lightning and airglow camera.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency says that its spacecraft is the world's first interplanetary weather satellite. It is expected to work for two Earth years.

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