Feeds

Dud Mars probe's explosion will spare Earth's cities

Clock ticking on orbiting 7,500kg tank of fuel

High performance access to file storage

The chief of the Russian space agency has assured the public that the stalled and uncommunicative Mars probe Phobos-Grunt will not smash into a populated area of Earth.

Vladimir Popovkin, head of Roscosmos, told reporters that if the wayward spacecraft re-enters the Earth's atmosphere, which he believes is still the worst-case scenario, it won't harm anyone.

“There are 7.5 metric tons of fuel in the aluminium tanks on board. We have no doubts that they will explode [and destroy the probe] upon re-entry,” Popovkin said, according to Russian state news agency RIA Novosti. “It is highly unlikely that its parts would reach Earth.”

The chances of contacting the craft are dwindling however and the space agency is giving the rescue attempt until the beginning of December to succeed.

Phobos-Grunt has been stranded in low-Earth orbit since it launched successfully on 9 November, but its engines failed to get it going on its mission to Mars. The probe was supposed to fly to the Red Planet, go around it for a few months and then land on Martian moon Phobos to collect samples before returning to Earth in 2014.

Instead, it has been circling our home world while engineers attempt to contact it and establish why it didn't fire its engines to send it on course to Mars. The astroboffins hope there's still a chance to get the probe on its way.

However, none of the attempts to get a signal to or from the spacecraft have been successful.

“We estimate that the Phobos-Grunt will fly until January, and to make it perform its mission we still have time until the beginning of December,” Popovkin said.

The major problem is how few earth-to-space communication stations there are. Engineers have to sit around until Phobos-Grunt passes over one and then they have a small window in which to send and receive signals.

Space boffins have now reduced the power of the signal they're sending up, because the craft is so much lower than it's meant to be, and are trying to lengthen the communication window.

Popovkin said losing the probe "would be a disappointment", but the Russian space programme would go on at pace.

“As to Mars - it is a planet that does not like earthlings. Only 30 per cent of Soviet-Russian launches to Mars were successful, the Americans have had 50 per cent success, while all attempts by Japan and Europe have failed so far,” he sniffed. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
Russian deputy PM: 'We are coming to the Moon FOREVER'
Plans to annex Earth's satellite with permanent base by 2030
KILLER SPONGES menacing California coastline
Surfers are safe, crustaceans less so
LOHAN's Punch and Judy show relaunches Thursday
Weather looking good for second pop at test flights
New FEMTO-MOON sighted BIRTHING from Saturn's RING
Icy 'Peggy' looks to be leaving the outer rings
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
Curiosity finds not-very-Australian-shaped rock on Mars
File under 'messianic pastries' and move on, people
Top Secret US payload launched into space successfully
Clandestine NRO spacecraft sets off on its unknown mission
Get your MOON GEAR: Auction to feature Space Race memorabilia
Keepsakes from early NASA, Soviet programs up for bids
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.