Solar Flare Shuts Down Nozomi Mars Probe’s Communication System

Communication with Japan’s Nozomi Mars Probe was all but severed recently due to a solar flare according to Japanese space officials. One of Nozomi’s communication systems was rendered inoperable by a burst of solar radiation on 21 April 2002. According to Japan’s ISAS (Institute of Space and Astronautical Science) it may take up to 6 months to get the system fully operational again. Meanwhile other systems on Nozomi are operating normally thus allowing mission controllers to repair the spacecraft. Nozomi was originally supposed to enter orbit around Mars on 11 October 1999. However, the spacecraft used more propellant than originally planned in an Earth swingby maneuver on 21 December 1998 . This left the spacecraft with insufficient acceleration to complete its nominal trajectory to Mars. A new trajectory was implemented whereby Nozomi will remain in heliocentric orbit for an additional four years and then reach Mars in December 2003.