NASA plans to put Magellan back to work mapping Venus on January 24, using a backup transponder to transmit radar data back to Earth. The spacecraft's primary transponder failed January 4. At this point, the backup unit is only able to send data at approximately 43% of the previous rate, which will restrict mapping coverage. NASA engineers predict that the backup unit will be able to operate at full capacity again by January 24.
Magellan is beginning its third mapping cycle, in which “we'll try to fill in the remaining data gaps, and we'll try to revisit, for stereo imaging, areas that appear to be of particular scientific value,” said David Okerson, mission program engineer. The spacecraft will be able to map, in stereo, the Maxwell Montes area, including the highest mountain on Venus. The transponder glitches made Magellan miss the Ushas area, which Okerson said will be mapped at the end of the third cycle.