Japanese Mars Mission Faces Critical Challenges

With NASA’s Mars Explorer and Europe’s Mars Express missions well on their way to the Red Planet, many are forgetting the Japanese Nozomi spacecraft which was launched almost five years ago. It should have reached Mars a long time ago but a failed flyby of Earth forced the spacecraft to make another trip around to get enough speed. In April last year a solar flare damaged the spacecraft’s heating system and disrupted communications. Even if it makes a final flyby of Earth this week, engineers will need to fix its broken systems so that it can go into orbit around Mars. If everything is fixed, Nozomi is expected to reach Mars in late December 2003 or early 2004.