Monday, January 2, 2012

Russia admits failed Mars probe may hit Earth NEXT WEEK - 2nd Jan 2012

Fragments of stricken Russian spaceship Phobos-Grunt are expected to come crashing back to Earth next week.

The 13.5 tonne craft became stranded in Earth's orbit in November after its rocket boosters failed to ignite following take off.

A computer malfunction was blamed for the failure meaning the spaceship, the largest planetary rocket ever built by Russia, had to abandon its mission to Mars to collect rock samples from the moon Phobos.

The mission would have been the first time samples had been extracted from a moon orbiting another planet. The craft also carried a Chinese Mars orbiter and bacteria containers, intended to test their survival in space.

Twenty to thirty pieces of debris from the vessel, weighing a total of around 200kg, are expected to fall back to Earth by January 14.

As the spacecraft nears re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere, space agency officials from around the world will track its trajectory hour by hour. However, experts from Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, admitted they have no idea where the pieces will fall and that plotting its landing site is subject to a high degree of uncertainty. Source