The head of Russia's space agency Roscosmos--you know, the one that hasn't enjoyed a lot of success lately--isn't sure exactly why Russia's doomed Phobos-Grunt mission failed to fire its engines and escape Earth's orbit on a trajectory for Mars. But he's got a theory: it's the West's fault.
Days before Phobos-Grunt reenters the atmosphere, a new video captures the failed Mars probe traveling backward above the Earth. Its solar panels face away from the sun and there’s no sign of it tumbling, which most spacecraft are designed to do to maintain stability.
When the German ROSATsatellite fell from the sky back in October--right on the heels of NASA's UARS satellite, which came crashing down in September--we were told that we wouldn't have to worry about any more falling satellites for awhile.
Most of the sentiment surrounding Russia's failed Mars-bound Phobos-Grunt has been a mix of guarded hopefulness that Roscosmos will recover the mission--currently stalled in Earth orbit--and sympathy for a space program that's been dogged by these kinds of failures. Not so for Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who is reportedly looking to mete out some serious punishment for the high-profile debacle.
Finally, Russia's Phobos-Grunt spacecraft has called home. The European Space Agency has confirmed that Roscosmos' marooned spacecraft--stuck in Earth orbit after a failed booster firing failed to set it on a course for Mars earlier this month--made contact with an ESA tracking station in Perth, Australia, yesterday.
It's now been almost a week since the launch of Russia's Phobos-Grunt spacecraft, and still mission handlers have received no communication from the interplanetary probe which has been stuck in Earth orbit since launching last Tuesday. The head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos says that the mission is not yet lost, but the window is definitely closing.
A day after the successful launch of the Phobos-Grunt probe from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, Russian mission handlers are already scrambling to save their spacecraft from the fate that has befallen so many Russian Mars missions. Phobos-Grunt found orbit yesterday but then failed to fire the engines that would put it on a path for the Martian moon Phobos.
At 3:16 pm EST today, Russia will launch the Phobos-Grunt mission from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The unmanned probe is traveling to the Martian moon Phobos, in an attempt to bring back the first soil sample ("grunt" is Russian for "soil") from the smaller of the planet's moons. The irregularly shaped Phobos is the closest moon to its planet in the solar system, orbiting the red planet at just under 10,000 kilometers.The mission is a chance to study how planets and moons form.
Water bears, the tiny creatures that have already been proven to survive direct exposure to the vacuum of space, were slated for launch to a Martian moon this month. But Russian officials chose to delay their first interplanetary mission in more than a decade due to safety and technical issues, until the next launch window opens in 2011.