Chance of Russia Mars probe rescue 'very small'

Nov 11, 2011
A Zenit-2SB rocket, carrying the Phobos-Grunt spacecraft, seen here at a launch pad of the Russian leased Kazakhstan's Baikonur cosmodrome early on November 9, just before it's blast off toward Mars. The mission went awry after launch when the $165 mln probe's engine failed to fire, leaving it orbiting the Earth rather than starting its journey towards the red planet.

The chances of rescuing a Russian probe that is stuck in an Earth orbit after failing to set out on its planned mission for Mars are very small, the Interfax news agency reported on Friday.

Mission control failed overnight even to obtain data from the Phobos-Grunt probe, which was launched earlier this week in what Moscow had hoped would be a triumphant return to inter-planetary exploration, it said.

"Overnight, several attempts were made to obtain telemetric information from the probe. They all ended with zero result," Interfax quoted a source in the Russian space sector as saying.

"The probability of saving the probe is very, very small," added the source, who was not identified.

Nonetheless, attempts to make contact with the probe would continue Friday, also using Earth-based facilities operated by NASA and the , the source added.

Russia's space agency have said scientists have a window of only a few days to reprogramme the probe in a bid to send it on its route to Mars. If this does not happen, it risks falling back to Earth.

If the rescue attempts fail, the slowly descending probe could fall early next month, a source told the RIA Novosti news agency, amid varying predictions including for late this month.

"I think the probe will definitely not fall to Earth earlier than December 3," the source said, adding the probe was losing height only gradually.

The mission went awry after Wednesday when the five-billion-ruble ($165 million) probe's engine failed to fire, leaving it orbiting the Earth rather than starting its journey towards the red planet.

The probe had the unprecedented mission to land on the Martian moon Phobos and bring a sample of its rock back to Earth.

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User comments : 33

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omatumr
1.2 / 5 (10) Nov 11, 2011
Thanks for the story.

I look forward to finding out what happened.

Again, thanks.

With kind regards,
Oliver K. Manuel
http://myprofile....anuelo09

Pirouette
1 / 5 (1) Nov 11, 2011
Where are the Creationists. . . .what we need now is a miracle to start those engines up. Anyone up to a few prayers? ;)
rawa1
1.8 / 5 (5) Nov 11, 2011
Who does nothing, breaks nothing... But next time I'd recommend to equip such a space-probe with auto-destruction mechanism. Now it's out of control and full of frozen hydrazine-nitrogen dioxide hypergolic explosive. The Phobos-Grunt's story didn't finished yet.
Isaacsname
5 / 5 (3) Nov 11, 2011
http://www.russia...unt.html

I bet China's not too stoked either, since they just lost the YH-1..
gunslingor1
2.5 / 5 (4) Nov 11, 2011
Don't be silly rawa1, this thing has no chance of hurting anyone. In the entire history of man, only one object falling from space ever hit a person; it was a meteorite, and it first bounce before hitting a sleeping lady along the hip.

These things burn up long before they reach the earth; if anything does make it, its tiny, and the chances of hitting a man made object, let alone a person, are negligable. meteors the size of houses fall everyday on earth, most don't even make it to the ground as dust.

Sad, but not unexpected. Would have been great to bring back a rock, but Russian technology isn't famed as high qualilty... thus failures shall continue. Good thing we retired the space shuttle, lol.
simonl
4.5 / 5 (2) Nov 11, 2011
Where are the Creationists. . . .what we need now is a miracle to start those engines up. Anyone up to a few prayers? ;)


Not much a prayer can do about intentional obstruction. Phobos is really a spaceship, not a moon. It's inhabitants obviously have their ways to avoid curious visitors.

Or maybe the russians are finally about to lose their good rocket karma.

Wait, can we get back to rational arguments?
Pirouette
1.1 / 5 (9) Nov 11, 2011
Only goes to show you. . . . .the United States rules!!! STILL #1.
(rubbing it in Kochevnik's face)
Pirouette
1.8 / 5 (4) Nov 11, 2011
Where are the Creationists. . . .what we need now is a miracle to start those engines up. Anyone up to a few prayers? ;)


Not much a prayer can do about intentional obstruction. Phobos is really a spaceship, not a moon. It's inhabitants obviously have their ways to avoid curious visitors.

Or maybe the russians are finally about to lose their good rocket karma.

Wait, can we get back to rational arguments?


LOL ,where is your sense of humour. . .the prayer comment was only "tongue-in-cheek". However, if that fuel gets through without burning up. . .we might really need a miracle, after all.
ScienceFreak86
1 / 5 (1) Nov 11, 2011
they should design/create some system(some kind of ship) to capture satelittes in orbit around Earth, 160m$ is a lot of money...it would be a huge lost, if they fail to save this mission
Callippo
1 / 5 (1) Nov 11, 2011
Fobos-Grunt station carries some radioactive materials too. Radioactive sources are serving for the MIMOS II Mosbauer spectrometer designed for identifying iron and its quantity in the Phobos soil. The half-decay period for Cobalt-57 is around nine months. The weight of Cobalt-57 gamma ray sources on board the station is insignificant. Just a few grams... reports Interfax. An anonymous (expert) source indicated this may force reform in the Russian space agency, Roscosmos. Also, "a number of positions of responsible persons" could face jail time.

On board the probe is 8.3 metric tonnes of highly toxic and hypergolic mixture of hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide. This mixture will be in frozen time, so it can survive the fall of probe and to reach the Earth surface, where it will explode. This is nearly 20 times the amount that was on board the American spy satellite USA-193, which was shot down before reentry by the U.S. in February 2008.
Hengine
not rated yet Nov 11, 2011
Sad news :*(
Milou
not rated yet Nov 11, 2011
Since it is so close to a planet and risk falling. Why not get the thing to visit earth. Take samples and send it out of this world? Communication is very hard to do even for satellites.
Pirouette
1 / 5 (6) Nov 11, 2011
This is why there should be at least one shuttle left on the pad at Kennedy for just such emergencies. They might have been able to use it to capture the Russian Phobos probe, stow it in the shuttle's payload hold and bring it back to Earth. Of course, the probe would have to be taken either to Houston or Kennedy, but what the heck. In such a situation, the expediency of the problem should take precedence over Russian secrecy when the whole world might be affected by the toxic effects of fuel raining down without being burnt up. When is NASA going to assume some responsibility and reason? The shuttle was the only thing, at this time, with the capabilities and performance needed for the job. Nothing else is ready.
Pirouette
1 / 5 (4) Nov 11, 2011
It might also be good for U.S.-Russian relations. We saved their asses before, we can do it again.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (2) Nov 11, 2011
These things burn up long before they reach the earth;

Usually true, but this thing carries a capsule that is specifically designed not to burn up (because it was meant to return samples from Phobos to Earth)

It's comments like the following, though, that really make me despair of human intelligence:
This is why there should be at least one shuttle left on the pad at Kennedy for just such emergencies.

they should design/create some system(some kind of ship) to capture satelittes in orbit around Earth,

You are aware that 'orbit' can be anything from a few hundred kilometers (what the shuttle can reach at best) to tens of thousands of kilometers out? In all possible planes/trajectories? How many gigatonnes of fuel were you going to give you 'capture ship'? And what was it supposed to do when it caught one?
Pirouette
1 / 5 (1) Nov 11, 2011
I hadn't thought of that, anti . . .thanks for the info. I suppose we're doomed, if that fuel doesn't burn.
(bending over to kiss my own arse goodbye) :(
bluehigh
1 / 5 (1) Nov 11, 2011
Crikey Pirouette ... what a sight to have in mind before breakfast! Coffee must have coffee.

Pirouette
1 / 5 (2) Nov 11, 2011
bluehigh . . . .I knew SOMEBODY would appreciate that. . .heheheheh *((
Vendicar_Decarian
3 / 5 (2) Nov 11, 2011
Isn't this a job for thunderbird 1?

Has anyone called International Rescue?
Vendicar_Decarian
1 / 5 (1) Nov 11, 2011
"they should design/create some system(some kind of ship) to capture satelittes in orbit around Earth" - Kah Kah

It would probably blow up on the launch pad, and would cost more than the thing that they are trying to save.
bluehigh
1 / 5 (1) Nov 12, 2011
F.A.B - Vendi. Mr Tracey is waiting for Lady Penelope to arrive and confirm conversations with the Russian ambassador. Then Scott will rendezvous with Phobos-Grunt and assist. Thunderbirds are go!

ROBTHEGOB
1 / 5 (2) Nov 12, 2011
Too bad - but I thought the mission was overly ambitious from the beginning. If they can't even get out of Earth orbit, the chance of the rest of the mission succeeding would likely have been very low. Back to the drawing board.
Vendicar_Decarian
1 / 5 (1) Nov 12, 2011
What the hell does F.A.B stand for anyhow?

With regard to this mission, it will be interesting to see if they will have enough information to identify the problem as either hardware or software.

Further, the U.S. has developed some quick launch ICBM interceptor missiles for it's star wars program - The Soviets probably have something similar, as do the Chinese.

It seems to me that this would craft would make a good target for practice provided the orbital debris field issue isn't a problem.
Callippo
1 / 5 (1) Nov 12, 2011
Too bad - but I thought the mission was overly ambitious from the beginning.
You're right. The Russians have large period of inactivity in sending of such kind of satellites, so they should train itself with some smaller and cheaper project first. Even the space research needs some continuity and collecting the know-how for becoming effective and reliable.
bluehigh
1 / 5 (1) Nov 12, 2011
What the hell does F.A.B stand for anyhow?


I remember hearing it expanded once on one the the episodes but forget .. such a long time ago now. I could of course look it up but I quite like not knowing in a twisted way. As long as 'Parker' says 'Yes M'lady' and occasionally takes extreme and unrealistic measures - I'm happy to suspend belief. Gotta have some fun sometimes. I always preferred Thunderbird 2.

Pirouette
1.3 / 5 (3) Nov 12, 2011
Always preferred Lara Croft, myself.
But somehow, I am starting to think that the motivation for the Russian Phobos mission was not simply a science experiment (gone wrong), but more POLITICALLY inclined. The Russian election is coming up fast, and Putin and the United Russian Party (or whatever the name) needed something to grab the peoples' attention. After all, his ratings were not all that high in Russia. The project was started sometime back, but everyone knew that Putin would want the highest office in Russia back in his clutches. And he needed something to reinforce his power and popularity in the minds of the Russian people. . . .rather than that of a "dancing bear".
"hail, the conquering hero" would have been his dream if the project had been successful.
Now, with the hope almost totally gone, he has egg on his face. It did seem to be done in such great haste; that's why I think it's all political.
Skepticus
not rated yet Nov 12, 2011
It seems to me that this would craft would make a good target for practice provided the orbital debris field issue isn't a problem.


I would suggest they shoot it down when it starts to enter the atmosphere. This will eliminate the orbital debris problem. The catch is, does the missile tracking system is good enough for targeting reentering objects?
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Nov 12, 2011
I would suggest they shoot it down when it starts to enter the atmosphere.

If you followed the past few reentries then you may have noticed that it's very hard to predict where it will come down. And no: We do not have a global anti-missile system capable of shooting down incoming stuff.
AFAIK there was ever only one such system projected (though never built) in a ring around Moscow - but that would only have been of much use if the thing comes down straight at Moscow.

The world (or any one country) is a big place. A localized missile system doesn't do much good for such a wide area to cover.
Pirouette
1 / 5 (2) Nov 12, 2011
oh nooooooo. . . . http://www.physor...ost.html
Vendicar_Decarian
1 / 5 (1) Nov 12, 2011
"I always preferred Thunderbird 2." - Bluehigh

I am a big Anderson fan, and even have his Fireball XL5 series as well as Stingray, 1999 etc. Never heard FAB expanded though.

If you haven't seen the CGI version of Capt. Scarlet, do so. Most excellent.

As to Mars-Grunt... Unless they are pointing their dishes in the wrong direction, it is Dead Jim.
Skepticus
not rated yet Nov 13, 2011
Why all those hoopla about a few thousand pounds of hydrazine? As the satellite burns up in the atmosphere (the return capsule excepted), all the fuel systems-which are not built to survive fiery heat- will burn up and disperse the toxic gas in the upper atmosphere anyway. Nobody gave a hoot when the Challenger and Columbia blew/burned up quite close over their heads, with all those thousands of pounds of hydrazine in their OMS and RCS..Perhaps Russians' hydrazine are more toxic to human's health than that of the US, the same as Iran's alleged nukes are more dangerous to ME peace than existing Israelis' nukes?

PS: Please rate a 1 for slighting the international-law-abiding Israelis-I love number one ratings!:-)
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Nov 13, 2011
sorry..wrong thread.
javjav
not rated yet Nov 14, 2011
Soon there will be enough spatial garbage to become a bussines. Capture those things to recycle them, and sale second hand pieces already in orbit for low cost space missions. Special offer: buy 1 ton of hydrazine and get two solar panels and one antena for free. I bet private companies may develop this business. Or maybe China for its space station, why launch heavy and expensive pieces if you can get them there?