A Japanese space probe sent to the thick clouds of Venus shut itself down, and its future looks as hazy as the planet it was built to study. The probe, called Akatsuki, which means "dawn," reached Venus on Tuesday to orbit Earth's neighbor on a two-year mission. But communication problems left scientists in the dark about whether it was successfully in orbit.
An American scientist on the probe's research team said the probe shut itself partially down and is in safe mode. That means it is sending back signals indicating it is alive, but not transmitting any data. At first, controllers back on Earth lost contact with the probe and got modulating signals indicating that spaceship may be wobbling a bit. But after a few hours, engineers at NASA and the Japanese space agency, JAXA, were able to lock on the probe's signal and found it shut itself down to protect itself, Limaye said.