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Monday, November 14, 2011
Russia Stumbles Out of Gate to Phobos
The bad news of course is that this bird may not be going
anywhere. Unfortunately it is the one I want
to succeed since it appears that we need to know a lot more about Phobos.
Phobos is probably hollow and is a natural space habitat or
more reasonably an unnatural space habitat with a spinning globe inside to
provide artificial gravity for its inhabitants plausibly numbering in the
Conspiracy theorists are welcome to blame the men in black
for preventing a successful launch.
That it has never been a proper target before is rather
curious since its numbers defy our own knowledge.
I hope we have something to cheer about before this is over
but so far I think Captain Ahab is in charge here.
Sunday night - the news continues to worsen and i suspect this mission is a goner. I added an update article.
Russian Engineers Race to Save Troubled Mars Moon Probe
Phobos-Grunt appears to be stuck in Earth orbit. In two
weeks, if its thrusters aren't restarted, the spacecraft will be lost
By Clara Moskowitz
and SPACE.com | November 9, 2011 | 8
A Zenit rocket
launches into space carrying Russia's
Phobos-Grunt spacecraft toward Mars on a mission to collect samples of the
Martian moon Phobos. Liftoff occured on Nov. 9, 2011 Local Time from Baikonur
Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan
(Nov. 8 EST).
Russian engineers are scrambling to try to save the
Phobos-Grunt spacecraft, which was launched Tuesday (Nov. 8) but has failed to
head toward Mars as planned.
appears to be stuck in Earth orbit instead, after its engine failed to ignite
to send the probe on a trajectory to the Red Planet. Now Russian Space Agency
officials say they have two weeks to figure out how to start up Phobos-Grunt's
thrusters before the spacecraft is lost completely.
"They seem to be
in a stable and relatively long-lived situation, so they have the most precious
spaceflight resource -- TIME -- to figure out and implement an alternate
command scheme," space consultant James Oberg, a former NASA space shuttle
mission control engineer, told SPACE.com in an email. "It looks like they
will try an orbit raise burn about 17:16 GMT [12:16 EST] today."
spacecraft launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 3:16 p.m. EST (2016
GMT) Tuesday, and separated from its Zenit rocket properly, Russian officials
said. However, the spacecraft's own engine then failed to burn when it was
supposed to. Engineers hope that the issue might be a software program that
could be fixed by rebooting.
"I think the
mission is eminently rescue-able, depending of course on the root cause of the
problem," Obserg wrote. "If it's software, which is perhaps the most
likely problem, there's time to load existing or thrown-together contingency
The $163 million
Phobos-Grunt spacecraft is designed to land on Mars' moon Phobos, collect rock
samples, and return them to Earth. The mission was intended to restore glory to
Mars exploration program after three previous spacecraft intended to visit the
Red Planet failed.
nature of this mission, aiming for the first Russian deep space success in a
quarter century, always looked awfully bold, and now looks just plain reckless
-- whatever happens next,"
Russian space experts are battling to fix a technical failure on board
an interplanetary craft that was heading to the Martian moon Phobos, amid fears
the ship could crash back to Earth without ever reaching its goal.
It was hailed as Russia’s
first interplanetary mission in 15 years.
However, it looks like becoming the fourth unsuccessful attempt by
Russian scientists to explore Mars and its moons.
Two automatic stations, Phobos-1 and Phobos-2, were launched in July
1988. However, both failed – one two months after the launch, the other
just after it had started to transmit photo and video footage from Phobos’
In 1996, yet another mission to Mars ended with the craft splashing
into the Pacific.
When the rocket carrying Phobos-Grunt launched on Wednesday from
Russia’s Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, hopes were high that the station
would bring back samples from one of Mars’s moons, thereby advancing our
understanding of how the universe evolved. Now, it looks like those
expectations were in vain.
The rocket booster performed correctly, taking the craft into its
programmed orbit where the engines of the second stage were supposed to send
the spacecraft on a trajectory to the Red Planet. They never ignited.
Since then, mission control has been frantically trying to work out
what went wrong, and diagnose whether it was a software problem or a mechanical
Whichever was to blame, the outcome remains the same – all efforts to
get the mission back on track have proven fruitless. Attempts to establish
contact with the lifeless spacecraft, and repeated bids to upload commands via
a software link, have brought no response.
Russia’s space agency Roscosmos has remained
tight-lipped, stubbornly refusing to offer any official comment on the space
However, unofficial and unnamed sources admit that hope of making
contact with the spacecraft is running out. So instead of setting out on a
historic journey to the Red Planet, the Phobos-Grunt craft will spiral down
towards Earth, burning up in the atmosphere by the end of November or beginning
of December. The date predicted for its landfall is November 26.
After plummeting through the atmosphere, the craft will most likely
fall into the ocean. The 10 tons of highly flammable and toxic fuel and a small
quantity of radioactive material contained in the equipment on board the space
mission will burn up along with most of the ship.
The chances of the spacecraft falling on a populated area and causing
harm are minuscule. However, the risk cannot be ruled out, so averting
such a scenario is what mission control are working on right now.
Even if the vehicle causes no damage on landing, it represents a huge
loss to the scientific community. The rocks and dust samples it was meant to
collect from Phobos were highly-anticipated.
Another key experiment the mission had been due to perform was dubbed
Life and involved testing the “panspermia” theory. The ship was carrying
bacteria which were to be monitored to discover whether genetic material are
able to survive a journey in open space.
The Phobos-Grunt mission was also carrying a small Chinese satellite
that was to orbit Mars, collecting data continuously.
Now that the chances of rescuing the mission and its precious cargo of
computers are dwindling, the main concern is where the wreckage of the ship
will fall, and what harm it might bring.