After five years of limping injured to Mars, the Nozomi mission has been abandoned.

Problems with the Nozomi Mission

December, 1998: Too much fuel used during a course correction
A malfunctioning valve during the December 20, 1998 Earth swingby cause the spacecraft to use much more fuel then originally planned and left Nozomi unable to reach Mars using its current flight path. A new plan was formatted: to have Nozomi orbit the Sun for four years and wait for a more opportune moment and, using gravity assists from Earth, reach Mars at a slower relative velocity.

April 2002: Powerful solar flares disrupt systems
During the Earth gravity assist on April 21, 2002 solar flares damaged the communication and power systems. The heating system failed due to an electrical short and Nozomi’s remaing fuel reserves froze. As Nozomi approached Earth, the fuel thawed and the flyby was successful.

December 2003: The final straw A second and final Earth swingby occurred June 19, 2003. The maneuver was successful, and the craft limped towards Mars, injured, but still functional. However, the December 9, 2003 maneuver to position the craft for Mars orbital insertion failed. The mission was for all intents and purposes abandoned. To reduce chances of crashing into Mars and contaminating it, the craft was inserted into a 2-year heliocentric orbit.

Nozomi will remain in its highly elliptical orbit, conducting alternative missions including monitoring solar activity. In other Mars news, the European Space Agency’s Beagle 2 also is having problems. The Mars Exploration Rovers are set to reach Mars in January 2004.