Feeds

A year in spaaaaace: El Reg looks back on 2011

Era of the spaceplane ends, robot exploration continues

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

Are you out there, Phobos-Grunt?

The global earth-to-space communications network is pretty sparse and space boffins had to wait until Phobos-Grunt passed over a point where it could send and receive messages, and then quickly try to establish contact.

The Russians enlisted the help of the European Space Agency, but things were looking pretty bleak, inspiring the cranks to come up with some wild theories as to what had happened to the craft and prompting the question - if it does drop out of the sky, will it hit someone?

Galactic Ghoul seen by the Spitzer Space Telescope

Was Phobos-Grunt eaten by the Galactic Ghoul? Credit: NASA/JPL/Caltech

Less than a week after they lost contact with the craft, the head of Roscosmos felt moved to reassure the public that the flaming wreckage of the probe wasn't going to come raining down on 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,” Vladimir Popovkin said. “It is highly unlikely that its parts would reach Earth.”

Meanwhile, space experts were suggesting that if the probe didn't have enough gas left for a trip to Mars, perhaps the moon or a near-earth object would be a good plan B?

But as the window of opportunity to send Phobos-Grunt on its original mission closed, there seemed to be little hope left.

The probe stubbornly continued to hang on in there in orbit, even mysteriously rising for a little while, but still no word.

Then, randomly, two weeks after it had first been lost, the ESA managed to get a signal from the craft at its tracking station in Perth, Australia.

Hopes for reviving the craft and salvaging some sort of mission were short-lived though. After sending some garbled messages and one lot of decipherable telemetry data, Phobos-Grunt once more went dark.

After a few more days of trying, the ESA gave up on the stranded probe and then the Russians announced they expected the craft to crash through the atmosphere sometime in January.

Oh, and maybe it won't all burn up after all, there might be the small matter of 20 to 30 remnants that could hit the Earth's surface, but they're not sure where yet.

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.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
How to determine if cloud backup is right for your servers
Two key factors, technical feasibility and TCO economics, that backup and IT operations managers should consider when assessing cloud backup.
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.
Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence
Download Choosing a Cloud Hosting Provider with Confidence to learn more about cloud computing - the new opportunities and new security challenges.