Five years have passed when Japan last tried and failed to get its Akatsuki probe into Venus in 2010. Since then the spacecraft has been stuck orbiting the sun. Now the team is about to proceed another mission to complete its intended mission.
— Emily Lakdawalla (@elakdawalla) December 6, 2015
There is a plan to fire the ship’s engines on December 7 at 9am Japan time by the controllers. Perhaps it will give enough of a push to get it circling around Venus. But it may take a few days to know whether or not the burn worked properly within a few hours. Also, a few days are needed before they know they are in orbit.
Ironically the mission itself might not be the toughest part. Akatsuki is warmer than planned due to its extended trip around the Sun, and most of its equipment has been sitting idle. Controllers are worried about the fact that it may settle into a place with no way to capture the planet below. Even with the risks involved, the mission is worth the effort. If the next Venus mission may not be ready for years, this one for sure is an attempt to study one of the closest planetary neighbors.