Yesterday, the heads of the space agencies for Europe, Canada, Russia, India, and Japan met in Washington D.C. (without NASA, which had all hands on deck for the SpaceX launch in Florida). The most interesting topic of conversation? The moon, which seems to be the destination on everyone’s agenda except for NASA. And for Russia, it’s less a destination and more a frontier for colonization.
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.
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.
A new Russian space telescope that will work in concert with radio telescopes on the ground launched earlier today, capping an effort that germinated during the Cold War. It will be the biggest telescope ever, with an effective antenna size spanning 30 times the diameter of the Earth.
In the last century, Russia and the United States engaged competitively in both a space race and a nuclear technology race. In this century, it appears the two are considering collaborating in turning the fruits of those Cold War showdowns into workable technology that could expand spaceflight operations beyond Earth orbit. On April 15, Russia and NASA (and a handful of other “nuclear club” countries) will convene to talk about building a next-gen, nuclear powered spaceship.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.