Russian Mars probe will crash back to Earth next month

Russian Phobos-Grunt
Electrical testing of the spacecraft "Phobos-Grunt".

The Russian Phobos-Ground probe was intended to land on the Martian moon Phobos, and bring back soil samples to Earth in a 2,5 year mission. The craft started it’s journey from Site 45 in Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, on November. 8, 2011, when it was launched with a two-stage Zenit rocket (Zenit-2SB41.1). After a flawless liftoff, the first separation of the rocket went according to plan. Unfortunenaly issues occurred during the second separation of the two-stage rocket, leaving the Phobos-Grunt in an elliptical orbit with a perigee (lowest point) of 207 kilometers above the Earth surface and an apogee (highest point) of 347 kilometers.

Even after several attempt to salvage the mission, Roscosmos, the Russian space agency finally had to admit defeat and the Phobos-Ground probe was left stuck in an orbit around earth. The €129m ($170m) Phobos-Ground probe is now expected to fall back to Earth between 6 and 19 January. The craft weighs 13.2 tonne, including 11 tonnes of highly toxic fuel. But Roscosmos expect that only 20 to 30 fragments weighing a total of up to 200kg (440lb) will survive the fiery plunge and shower the Earth’s surface. Where they will land can only be calculated a few days beforehand, Roscosmos said in a statement.

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