Stranded Mars probe could fall to Earth in 11 days: report

Jan 04, 2012
A Zenit-2SB rocket, carrying the Phobos-Grunt spacecraft stands at a launch pad in Kazakhstan's Baikonur cosmodrome in 2011, just before it's blast off toward Mars. Fragments of the stranded Mars probe could fall to Earth on January 15, the spokesman of Russia's military space forces told Russian news agencies.

Fragments of Russia's stranded Mars probe Phobos-Grunt could fall to Earth on January 15, the spokesman of Russia's military space forces told Russian news agencies on Wednesday.

"As of Wednesday morning, the fragments of Phobos-Grunt are expected to fall January 15, 2012. The final date could change due to external factors," said spokesman Alexei Zolotukhin, quoted by the Interfax news agency.

In an embarrassing setback, the $165-million probe designed to travel to the Mars moon of and bring back soil samples, blasted off on November 9 but failed to leave the Earth's orbit.

The military space forces' monitoring centre had earlier predicted in November that the probe, which is gradually descending and slowing down, would fall to Earth in January or February.

Space forces spokesman Zolotukhin said the probe is now circling at an altitude of between 184 kilometres (114 miles) and 224 kilometres (139 miles) above Earth.

The said in December that it expected the 13.5-tonne probe to fall to Earth between January 6 and 19, but that it would only be possible to predict the exact time and place a few days in advance.

It said that 20 to 30 fragments weighing a total of no more than 200 kilograms were expected to fall to Earth, with the spacecraft's highly toxic fuel burning up on entering the Earth's atmosphere.

The ambitious and high-stakes project aimed to revive Russia's interplanetary programme, which has not seen a successful mission since the fall of the Soviet Union, and prepare the way for a manned mission to Mars.

Russia has experienced a series of serious space failures in the past year.

An unmanned Progress supply ship bound for the crashed into Siberia in August last year after its launch by a , forcing the rockets' temporary grounding.

Russia also lost three , an advanced military satellite and a .

In the latest setback, a fragment of a Russian communications satellite crashed into a Siberian village in December after it failed to reach orbit due to the failure of its Soyuz rocket.

Explore further: Japan space agency unveils asteroid hunting probe

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Russia Mars probe considered lost: report

Nov 12, 2011

Efforts to resume contact with a Russian space mission to Mars stuck in Earth orbit after launch have failed and the probe must be considered lost, Interfax news agency reported Saturday.

Russia Mars probe may fall to Earth in January

Nov 14, 2011

A Russian probe that was to visit a moon of Mars but is stuck in orbit around the Earth could burn up in the Earth's atmosphere in January, the head of the Russian space agency said Monday.

Russian satellite crashes into Siberia after launch

Dec 23, 2011

A Russian satellite on Friday crashed into Siberia minutes after its launch due to rocket failure, the defence ministry said, in the latest humiliating setback for Russia's embattled space programme.

Russian satellite hits Siberia's 'Cosmonaut Street'

Dec 24, 2011

A fragment of a Russian satellite that crashed into Siberia in the latest setback for Russia's space programme hit a residential house on a street named after cosmonauts, officials said Saturday. ...

Recommended for you

Observing the onset of a magnetic substorm

9 hours ago

Magnetic substorms, the disruptions in geomagnetic activity that cause brightening of aurora, may sometimes be driven by a different process than generally thought, a new study in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Ph ...

We are all made of stars

12 hours ago

Astronomers spend most of their time contemplating the universe, quite comfortable in the knowledge that we are just a speck among billions of planets, stars and galaxies. But last week, the Australian astronomical ...

ESA video: The ATV-5 Georges Lemaitre loading process

12 hours ago

This time-lapse video shows the ATV-5 Georges Lemaitre loading process and its integration on the Ariane 5 launcher before its transfer and launch to the International Space Station from Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French ...

Titan's subsurface reservoirs modify methane rainfall

14 hours ago

(Phys.org) —The international Cassini mission has revealed hundreds of lakes and seas spread across the icy surface of Saturn's moon Titan, mostly in its polar regions. These lakes are filled not with water ...

User comments : 0