Failed space probe to fall to Earth in days, Russia says
The Phobos-Grunt probe, pictured here on October 18, failed to leave Earth orbit after its November 9 launch.
January 11th, 2012
06:24 PM ET

Failed space probe to fall to Earth in days, Russia says

A Russian probe that was supposed to reach one of Mars' moons but failed to escape Earth orbit is expected to fall to Earth between Saturday and Monday, Russia's space agency said.

It's too early to say where pieces of the unmanned Phobos-Grunt probe could fall. But on Sunday afternoon - the middle of the re-entry window - the nearly 15-ton probe is projected to be over the Indian Ocean, hundreds of miles southwest of Indonesia, the Roscosmos space agency said Wednesday.

Twenty to 30 fragments, weighing a total of up to 440 pounds, could survive the heat of re-entry, Roscosmos said, according to the state-run Ria Novosti news agency.

The craft is carrying 7.5 tons of toxic fuel. That fuel is expected to burn up on re-entry, Ria Novosti reported, citing Roscosmos.

The $163 million probe, launched on November 9, was supposed go to Mars' Phobos moon, where it was to collect soil and rock samples. A capsule containing the samples was to then return to Earth.

But the probe's propulsion system failed to work after it reached low-Earth orbit.

The craft falling to Earth also contains a Chinese satellite, the Yinghuo-1, which was to be delivered to Mars orbit, where it was to observe the Red Planet. The Yinghuo-1 was going to be China's first mission to Mars.

The U.S. Strategic Command, which says its Joint Functional Component Command for Space routinely tracks space objects, released a statement saying that "recent reports estimating (Phobos-Grunt) re-entry between January 13-17 are consistent with JFCC-Space and other United States government analysis."

"Predictions of re-entry date, time and location can change significantly due to many changing factors, such as solar weather and orientation of the spacecraft," the command said in the statement.

The probe's loss is the latest in a series of recent setbacks for Russia's space program.

On August 24, a Progress M-12M space freighter carrying food and other items to the international space station broke up over southern Siberia after failing to separate from its Soyuz-U carrier rocket, RIA Novosti reported.

Six days earlier, Russia lost a sophisticated Express-AM4 telecommunications satellite when the launch vehicle put it into the wrong orbit.

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Filed under: Mars • Russia • Space
soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. hamsta

    And obama wants to trust the russians to be our chaufers into space.nasa has a better record,put the shuttle back in service until we come up with a suitable replacement.all the astronauts agree!

    January 11, 2012 at 7:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Portland tony

      Political dialog has no place in science. The man rated Soyuz launch system has performed well in servicing the "space station". NASA has had its problems since Apollo. Remember Columbia and Challenger ? When you go where no man has gone before will encounter a problem or two.

      January 11, 2012 at 7:58 pm | Report abuse |
  2. bobcat (in a hat)©

    This is starting to get as common as the earthquakes.

    January 11, 2012 at 7:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • ???

      It seems to get more common, but it isn't. Do you know how much space junk is orbiting around Earth? A lot. Who knows how many times a day a small piece of space junk enters the Earth's atmosphere, only to burn up upon reentry. As for earthquakes, well, last I checked, most of them that you don't typically see reported in the news usually have a magnitude of four or less (very small and unnoticable sesmic tremors in the ground in other words).

      January 11, 2012 at 9:13 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Philip

    Well I am very pleased that we are all in the mood for a discussion about probes.

    January 11, 2012 at 7:33 pm | Report abuse |
  4. gung hoe

    @hamsta agreed plus there is alot of people that depended on nasa for a job! Man at the price of metals hope that thing falls in my backyard

    January 11, 2012 at 8:17 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Bubba Skunk

    Geez, will this distract us from the Broncos-Pats game? Nah........
    I'll tebow that it won't – and that the Pats win.

    January 11, 2012 at 8:28 pm | Report abuse |
  6. letgoofmyears

    For 163 million, you'd think they could have built it out of something a bit more high tech than an erector set and gold aluminum foil. No wonder it didn't work. Was the coyote inside, trying to light the Acme rocket?

    January 11, 2012 at 8:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      I was thinking the same thing!
      What is up with those things poking out of it?
      They look like freaking psychedelic stick horses!

      January 11, 2012 at 11:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • The Logical Centrist

      I agree. Actually that amount of money is a budget job, guess they got what they paid for.

      January 13, 2012 at 7:54 pm | Report abuse |
  7. hamsta

    @ portlandtony u might want to check ur facts.i recently read an article that detailed over 20 russian missions that failed to reach orbit in the past 10 years.u do realize failure to reach orbit will result in death to the entire crew 90 percent of the time dont u?nasas record is much better than that.

    January 11, 2012 at 9:44 pm | Report abuse |
  8. banasy©

    Ayone see the Farmer's Insurance commercials?
    They cover space junk.

    January 11, 2012 at 11:03 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Joko

    Why is always Indonesia !?!

    January 13, 2012 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Saranya

      But now, as his love, he came back late, slduhon't blame him not go home on time,

      February 13, 2012 at 9:48 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Tucsok

    hard to believe they dont have any more recent info...

    January 15, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Ray from Austin

    I see a lot of tin foil and a red traffic cone, where's the space probe?

    February 9, 2012 at 6:17 pm | Report abuse |
  12. seebofubar's doctor

    No sh$%&^$ it's coming down. Look at the &^$#& thing.

    February 9, 2012 at 6:23 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Mauritania: Slavery’s last stronghold

    I quite like reading a post that can make people think. Also, thank you for allowing for me to comment!

    March 19, 2012 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |