Venus Express gone?

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Engineers have been struggling to maintain contact with Venus Express, and have only been able to establish contact for intermittent periods.

Europe’s Venus Express was launched in November 2005 and got to the second planet from the Sun in April 2006, on what was originally a two-year mission. Since then it has sent data streaming back from its polar orbit.

But the probe’s days are numbered, and last month the flight control team at the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) at Darmstadt, Germany, reported loss of contact with it. According to ESA’s Venus Express blog, it is possible that the remaining fuel on board the spacecraft was exhausted during recent manoeuvres and that the spacecraft is no longer in a stable attitude (the spacecraft’s high-gain antenna must be kept pointed toward Earth to ensure reliable radio contact).

They have been able to get bits of telemetry from the craft, but since its fuel supply is almost gone the possibility of keeping it operating much longer is limited.


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