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Japan to launch 'AKATSUKI' to explore Venus

An artist's conception of Japan's AKATSUKI spacecraft orbiting Venus. A JAXA Photo

TOKYO (BNS): Preparations are on in full swing at the Japanese space agency JAXA to launch the country's next planetary mission 'AKATSUKI' that will unveil the mysteries of Venus.

The spaceship arrived at the Tanegashima Space Centre on March 19, 2010 where it is undergoing final launch preparations, JAXA said.

The AKATSUKI (Planet-C) unmanned spaceship will be launched from on board a H-IIA F17 rocket on May 18, 2010 and is expected to reach Venus six months later.

This will be Japan's second attempt to send a planet exploration mission after the failure of its NOZOMI mission in 2003. The spacecraft was launched to explore Mars.

The AKATSUKI would be dedicated to elucidate the mysteries of Venusí atmosphere which is veiled in carbon dioxide, with high temperature and thick sulfuric-acid clouds.

The probe vehicle of the spacecraft will enter an elliptical orbit, 300 to 80,000 km away from Venus's surface. From such a distance, it would make a comprehensive observation of the planet's surface and its meteorological characteristics as well as an observation of the atmospheric particles escaping from Venus into space.

The storm winds blowing on the planetís surface will also be probed.

The spacecraft has been fitted with four cameras at ultraviolate and infrared wavelengths that will capture Venus from a close range.

Scientists expect to get a deeper understanding of this second closest planet of Sun. AKATSUKI will complement European Space Agency's Venus Express, which is also exploring Venus with different approaches.

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