Who Needs Mars: Japanese Probe Reaches Venus

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Venus transits across the sun as seen over Hong Kong June 8, 2004

People keep buzzing about water on the moon, and missions to mars – not to mention arsenic-based life forms – but Japan has instead chosen the second planet from the sun as the test location for their first orbiting probe.

Named Akatsuki, which means “dawn,” the probe arrived at Venus early Tuesday morning in Japan, the mission calling for a two-year study of the Venus surface. Of particular interest: The violent intensity of the planet’s surface winds, which scientists believe can reach speeds of up to 220 miles per hour.

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Using infrared technology, Akatsuki – which has been traveling towards the sun ever since a May 20 launch – will also monitor Venus for lightning activity, while surveying the planet’s could cover, climate, and volcanoes.

The arrival of the probe marks one of Japan’s most prominent space successes in years, and reasserts them at the top of the ongoing space race, which as of late has produced more headlines for China and Russia.  The $300 million probe will maintain an elliptical orbit around Venus, teetering between 50,000 miles and 190 miles from the planet’s surface. (via Press Association)