During the orbital insertion engine burn, Venus Express’ trajectory took it behind its target planet, meaning that for 10 minutes there were no radio signals available to ground teams. The mission control center went silent as ground teams waited to hear the return of the weak S-band signal from the satellite.
“We were sweating for a few minutes,” said Manfred Warhaut, Venus Express flight operations for the ESA, in a post-orbit arrival press conference.
Applause followed the confirmation that the signal had been acquired anew. But there were 12 more minutes of engine burn that were needed to further slow the satellite's speed and confirm its capture by Venus.
Mission controllers applauded when the signal confirmed that the engine had completed its burn and shut down, making Venus Express the first dedicated orbiter to study its cloudy target since NASA's Magellan mapping probe plunged into the planet's atmosphere in 1994.
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