Feeds

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

Clock ticking on orbiting 7,500kg tank of fuel

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

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. ®

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
Bond villains lament as Wicked Lasers withdraw death ray
Want to arm that shark? Better get in there quick
Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers
Windmills, solar, tidal - all a 'false hope', say Stanford PhDs
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
Reuse the Force, Luke: SpaceX's Elon Musk reveals X-WING designs
And a floating carrier for recyclable rockets
The next big thing in medical science: POO TRANSPLANTS
Your brother's gonna die, kid, unless we can give him your, well ...
Antarctic ice THICKER than first feared – penguin-bot boffins
Robo-sub scans freezing waters, rocks warming models
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
Your PHONE is slowly KILLING YOU
Doctors find new Digitillnesses - 'text neck' and 'telepressure'
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Seattle children’s accelerates Citrix login times by 500% with cross-tier insight
Seattle Children’s is a leading research hospital with a large and growing Citrix XenDesktop deployment. See how they used ExtraHop to accelerate launch times.
5 critical considerations for enterprise cloud backup
Key considerations when evaluating cloud backup solutions to ensure adequate protection security and availability of enterprise data.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?