Feeds

Now Russians can't even contact their busted Mars probe

In space, no one can hear you

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Attempts to contact the lost Russian spaceship Phobos-Grunt have so far been unsuccessful, a source in the space industry said.

The unmanned craft has been lost in space since it managed to get into orbit around Earth on 9 November, but then failed to produce the two engine bursts that would have sent it on its mission to Mars.

"The spacecraft repeatedly passed over the Baikonur station and other Russian and foreign points of space communications during the night. There is no news yet," the source told Russian news agency RIA Novosti today.

Since it didn't manage to fire its engines, Phobos-Grunt is stuck in Earth's orbit and Russian space boffins have to 'chase' it across the skies to send and receive messages when it passes close enough to points on the global earth-to-space communications network.

Unfortunately, the engineers have a limited timeframe to try to figure out what went wrong with the probe and get it back on track to orbit the Red Planet and land on the Martian moon Phobos before its batteries run out.

Original estimates on the battery's lifespan gave it only several days, but Vladimir Popovkin, who heads up Roscosmos, said on Wednesday that the scientists had two weeks to restart the probe's booster before its batteries run out, according to Russian state news agency RIA Novosti.

However, other space agency workers have been less optimistic. A source at the Baikonur Cosmodrome told online newspaper Gazeta.ru that there was only 36 hours left to contact the spaceship, because after that power would be too low and "re-establish[ing] contact with the craft would be impossible", the source said (with the help of Google Translate).

Every time the craft completes an orbit, it loses both altitude and speed, so the chance of engineers stabilising the ship and getting it sent on its way are steadily decreasing.

Varying reports in the Russian media suggest the probe could fall to Earth and burn up in the atmosphere in the next few days – reports vary between 26 November and 3 December.

The craft is insured for 1.2 billion roubles (£24.7m) but its loss "would certainly be a big blow to the prestige" of the Russian Space Agency, Popovkin told Gazeta.ru. ®

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
Antarctic ice THICKER than first feared – penguin-bot boffins
Robo-sub scans freezing waters, rocks warming models
I'll be back (and forward): Hollywood's time travel tribulations
Quick, call the Time Cops to sort out this paradox!
Your PHONE is slowly KILLING YOU
Doctors find new Digitillnesses - 'text neck' and 'telepressure'
Reuse the Force, Luke: SpaceX's Elon Musk reveals X-WING designs
And a floating carrier for recyclable rockets
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
Rosetta science team thinks Philae might come to life in the spring
And disclose the biggest surprise of Comet 67P
Bond villains lament as Wicked Lasers withdraw death ray
Want to arm that shark? Better get in there quick
prev story

Whitepapers

10 ways wire data helps conquer IT complexity
IT teams can automatically detect problems across the IT environment, spot data theft, select unique pieces of transaction payloads to send to a data source, and more.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
The total economic impact of Druva inSync
Examining the ROI enterprises may realize by implementing inSync, as they look to improve backup and recovery of endpoint data in a cost-effective manner.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.