Feeds

Duff Mars probe team sweats under Medvedev menaces

Phobos-Grunt relapses into silence

Intelligent flash storage arrays

Lost Martian probe Phobos-Grunt has gone back to its silent orbiting again, remaining unresponsive to Russian space agency attempts to contact it on Monday night.

Roscosmos was trying to order the module to raise its orbit, but the probe didn't respond, state news agency RIA Novosti reported.

"The sessions, which have been taken to issue commands to increase the altitude of the probe, did not lead to positive results," a Roscosmos spokesperson said.

He added that the agency would double its efforts.

The boffins want to lift Phobos-Grunt's orbit because it would increase the window of opportunity during which earth-to-space communication centres can reach it.

At the moment, the craft is in a low orbit with a perigee of around 200km and an apogee of 300km, giving a period of visibility of around six to seven minutes for ground stations beneath its track.

Extending the communication time would give the space experts more of a chance to exchange information with the craft, issuing commands and getting telemetry data.

The European Space Agency, which first contacted the probe last week, also had a few shots at sending the command at night, but the results are still unknown.

An ESA spokesperson was unavailable for comment at the time of publication.

Phobos-Grunt has been trapped in a useless orbit around Earth since 8 November, when it launched successfully, but its engines failed to send it on its way to Mars.

The probe should have flown to the Red Planet, orbited a few times while dropping off its Chinese passenger, the Yinghuo-1 satellite, and then continued on to Martian moon Phobos to land and collect soil samples.

Instead, it has been circling the Earth while Russian and European space boffins have scrambled to try to contact it, discover why its engines failed to fire and get it working again. Although it's too late now for Phobos-Grunt to make it to Mars, it could still fly to Earth's Moon or to a near-earth asteroid.

And just in case the Russian space engineers aren't feeling enough pressure, their president, Dmitry Medvedev, has said he is mulling criminal prosecution for the poor buggers.

"Recent failures are a strong blow to our competitiveness. It does not mean that something fatal has happened, it means that we need to carry out a detailed review and punish those guilty," Medvedev told reporters in televised comments.

"I am not suggesting putting them up against the wall like under Josef Vissarionovich (Stalin), but seriously punish either financially or, if the fault is obvious, it could be a disciplinary or even criminal punishment," he said. ®

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
SECRET U.S. 'SPACE WARPLANE' set to return from SPY MISSION
Robot minishuttle X-37B returns after almost 2 years in orbit
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
You can crunch it all you like, but the answer is NOT always in the data
Hear that, 'data journalists'? Our analytics prof holds forth
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
No sail: NASA spikes Sunjammer
'Solar sail' demonstrator project binned
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
Origins of SEXUAL INTERCOURSE fished out of SCOTTISH LAKE
Fossil find proves it first happened 385 million years ago
Human spacecraft dodge COMET CHUNKS pelting off Mars
Odyssey orbiter yet to report, though - comet's trailing trash poses new threat
prev story

Whitepapers

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.
Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
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.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.