Feeds

Duff Mars probe's flaming shards to rain down mid-January

Up to 30 bits of Phobos-Grunt to hit Earth

High performance access to file storage

The remains of dud Martian probe Phobos-Grunt will fall to Earth next month, the Russian space agency announced.

Roscosmos said that the exact time or place couldn't be forecast until a few days before it falls, but "according to expert estimations", it would hit the ground sometime between January 6 and January 19.

"Between 20 and 30 pieces of the remains of the probe with a total weight of less than 200kg could hit the Earth's surface," Roscosmos warned in a statement on its website.

Last month, the Russian space agency chief Vladimir Popovkin said that the 7.5 metric tons of fuel aboard the craft would explode on re-entry and take most of the probe with it.

"It is highly unlikely that its parts would reach Earth," he said.

Despite now warning that remnants could reach the ground somewhere between the 51.4 degrees north line of latitude and 51.4 degrees south, Roscosmos is still confident that all the fuel will be burnt up.

"The fuel of the spacecraft will burn in the dense atmosphere of the Earth at an altitude of approximately 100km," the agency said.

It added that a small amount of the radioisotope cobalt-57, which is set in one of the scientific instruments, has a mass of just ten micrograms and "a small half-life", so it "will not cause dangerous contamination".

At the moment, Phobos-Grunt is in a low Earth orbit with an apogee of 275.7km and a perigee of 201.3km, an orbit it has descended to after over five weeks of being stuck without engines.

The probe was launched on November 8, but on reaching space, failed to fire its engines to send it on its mission to Mars and the Martian moon of Phobos. Since then, its been circling the planet in an ever-decreasing orbit.

Both Roscosmos and the European Space Agency managed some contact with the craft, after weeks of trying, but only got to chat to the probe once or twice before it stopped answering.

There's still no explanation as to why the Phobos-Grunt's engines clapped out, apart from some wild theories, but the failure tacks on to a long list of unsuccessful Russian attempts to study the Red Planet.

According to Popovkin, Mars is a planet that "doesn't like Earthlings". He claims that only 30 per cent of Soviet-Russian launches to the planet were successful, although NASA alleges that all 17 of Russia's attempts have failed. ®

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
Red-faced LOHAN team 'fesses up in blown SPEARS fuse fiasco
Standing in the corner, big pointy 'D' hats
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
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
New FEMTO-MOON sighted BIRTHING from Saturn's RING
Icy 'Peggy' looks to be leaving the outer rings
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.