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Monday, January 16, 2012

Your Space News Updates.

Space Junk News - The Fall of Phobos-Grunt

Phobos-Grunt in assembly phase.

It's the end of another sad tale of Russia's attempts to investigate the planet Mars. Phobos-Grunt was launched on November 9, 2011 on a mission to explore Mars' moon Phobos and bring back samples to Earth. Instead, rocket failures on the probe left it in a perilous orbit around the Earth. Repeated attempts to correct the problem from Russian mission control were useless.

The orbit of Phobos-Grunt was unstable. Scientists hurried to predict where the probe would eventually crash back to Earth. Last night the answer was discovered as the craft entered the atmosphere and crashed to the surface somewhere in the Southern Pacific, about 1200 kilometers from Wellington Island. Chile is the owner of the island. No reports of the crash or any damage have been reported. There were worries that the toxic fuels on board the probe and some of the heavier instruments would survive enough of the burn-up to pose a threat to anyone near the crash site.

According to NASA records, this is the most recent of 17 failures by the Russians to explore Mars. They seem to have better success probing Venus. I think Mars hates them. Actually, it just shows how incredibly complicated and difficult it really is to send probes to other planets. We often take these explorations for granted.


ISS during Expedition 27. That's shuttle Endeavor docked at the top.

Meanwhile, up in space the ISS crew performed a maneuver to change the station's orbit slightly. They had two good reasons. Firstly, they needed to prepare for an upcoming rendezvous with a supply craft delivery of cargo. Second, and of slightly more urgency, they needed to dodge some junk.

Back in 2009, one of the Iridium satellites collided with a derelict Russian satellite. The resulting fragments scattered around the Earth. This particular fragment, about the size of a grapefruit, would pass uncomfortably close to the ISS. By performing the rendezvous maneuver now, the ISS has completely dodged the space junk.
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