Awesome action animation depicts Russia’s bold robot retriever to Mars moon Phobos

Nov 08, 2011 By Ken Kremer, Universe Today
Russia’s Phobos-Grunt interplanetary spacecraft is scheduled to blast off on November 9, 2011 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on a bold roundtrip mission to land on Phobos surface and ship the first ever soil samples back to Earth by 2014. Credit Roscosmos.

In less than 48 hours, Russia’s bold Phobos-Grunt mechanized probe will embark on a historic flight to haul humanities first ever soil samples back from the tiny Martian moon Phobos. Liftoff from the Baikonur Cosmodrome remains on target for November 9 (Nov 8 US EDT).

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On October 21, the Phobos-Grunt spacecraft arrived at the Baikonur Cosmodrome and was uncrated and moved to assembly building 31 for fueling, final preflight processing and encapsulation in the nose cone. Credit: Roscosmos

For an exquisite view of every step of this first-of-its-kind robot retriever, watch this spectacular action packed animation (below) outlining the entire 3 year round trip voyage. The simulation was produced by Roscosmos, Russia’s Federal Space Agency and the famous IKI Space Research Institute. It’s set to cool music – so don’t’ worry, you don’t need to understand Russian.

Labeled Schematic of Phobos-Grunt and Yinghou-1 (YH-1) orbiter. Credit: Roskosmos

Another video below shows the arrival and uncrating of the actual Phobos-Grunt spacecraft at Baikonur in October 2011.

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Every step of Russia’s Phobos-Grunt soil retrieval mission. Credit: Roscosmos/IKI

The highly detailed animation begins with the blastoff of the Zenit booster rocket and swiftly progresses through Earth orbit departure, Phobos-Grunt orbit insertion, deployment of the piggybacked Yinghuo-1 (YH-1) mini satellite from China, Phobos-Grunt scientific reconnaissance of Phobos and search for a safe landing site, radar guided propulsive landing, robotic arm manipulation and soil sample collection and analysis, sample transfer to the Earth return capsule and departure, plummeting through Earth’s atmosphere and Russian helicopter retrieval of the precious cargo carrier.

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GSwift7
not rated yet Nov 08, 2011
wow, that is a bold mission plan. Anybody want to place bets on whether the Ghost of Mars in hungry or not?

With an escape velocity of only 25 mph, most riding lawn mowers have enough power to lift off. It would be interesting to be able to watch the lander while it is taking samples. It wouldn't take much to make the lander move around when the sample arm is scooping up samples. I also wonder about the funnel they have for the samples that are getting analyzed on the lander. Even a little bit of static cling would be enough to overcome the microgravity. We're only talking about aproximately .008 g, if my back-o-the-envelope math is right.
JohnnyZupp
not rated yet Nov 08, 2011
The lander would have to dig in in order to hold, otherwise any extended scoop arm movement will kick it back into space, this means some kind of docking process need to be done instead of landing, it's got to have some kind of way to hold on to the surface, what if it's so hard that it can't be penetrated, then the only option to glue itself on, then how do you lift off after ?
GSwift7
not rated yet Nov 08, 2011
From the looks of the video, they appear to be using maneuvering thrusters to keep it pushed down. Notice the downward burn right after it touches down. I assume that's meant to settle it on the surface. There doesn't appear to be any kind of lock-down mechanism. Looks like plain old flat feet to me. In fact I don't see any shock absorbers. It certainly makes an interesting engineering problem.
JohnnyZupp
not rated yet Nov 08, 2011
Yes, it looks like, but Phobos is 18 miles in diameter, there is no gravitation force strong enough to pull the module down, creating vacuum under the leg wouldn't work neither because it's already in vacuum, I think it will glue itself on like a sticker pad, because it wouldn't need to lift off: the return module will...
Vendicar_Decarian
1 / 5 (2) Nov 09, 2011
This is a very complex mission for anyone, but especially Russia which has not had good luck producing reliable, complex systems.

I think the Ghost of Mars is hungry for this mission.
ROBTHEGOB
not rated yet Nov 09, 2011
Too complicated; the more complicated, the bigger the chance of failure. I wish them luck.