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Emily LakdawallaJanuary 6, 2015

Short updates on Akatsuki and Chang'e missions

A few recent newspaper articles provide some updates on the status of Japan's Venus mission, Akatsuki, and the service module of China's Chang'e 5 test vehicle, Xiaofei. In brief: Akatsuki still plans to attempt to enter orbit in December of this year, while Chang'e 5 T1 is headed to lunar orbit. Meanwhile, the Chang'e 3 mission has released an interesting image of M101, the Pinwheel Galaxy taken from the lunar surface with its ultraviolet camera:

M101, the Pinwheel Galaxy, in ultraviolet, from the lunar surface

Chinese Academy of Sciences

M101, the Pinwheel Galaxy, in ultraviolet, from the lunar surface
Chang'e 3 took this photo of the Pinwheel Galaxy using its Lunar-based Ultraviolet Telescope on December 2, 2014.

The Akatsuki story, reported in Yomiuri Shimbun, is that orbit insertion will take place in "early December," which is slightly later than the previously announced "late November" time frame. The orbit will be substantially longer than the originally planned one, with an apoapsis 300,000 to 400,000 kilometers from the surface.

Akatsuki's 2015 Venus orbit insertion geometry

Yomiuri Shimbun

Akatsuki's 2015 Venus orbit insertion geometry

Some Xiaofei news comes from the Global Times (in English). Having completed three circuits of the Earth-Moon L2 point, Xiaofei has departed L2 for lunar orbit and is expected to arrive "in mid-January." The article states that "As of Monday, the service module was 445,000 kilometers away from Earth and 57,000 km from the moon. NASAspaceflight.com user Galactic Penguin translates a December Xinhua report on the mission's goals thusly: "In February and March it will perform 2 'virtual target' rendezvous tests for the future CE-5 mission (not unlike how the Shuttle did 'dummy rendezvous' tests in the 1980s). In April the small monitoring camera will be used to obtain higher resolution photos of CE-5's landing zone."

Thanks to Daniel Fischer and to watchful members of unmannedspaceflight.com and nasaspaceflight.com for the tips to these reports.

Akatsuki:

JAXA

Akatsuki: "I'll be back!" Venus: "I'm waiting you"

Read more: mission status, Akatsuki (Planet-C), Chang'E program, stars and galaxies

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Emily Lakdawalla

Senior Editor and Planetary Evangelist for The Planetary Society
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