The European Space Agency has given up on efforts to revive Fobos-Grunt, the Russian space probe that was slated to visit the Martian moon Phobos, but got stuck in Earth’s orbit shortly after launch.
The unmanned probe was launched on Nov. 9 with a mission to take soil samples from the Martian moon and fly them to Earth. All efforts from the ESA to send the probe commands that could send it to the next stage of its mission have been unsuccessful, however, and now the ESA has announced it will not be making further attempts to contact the probe.
“In consultation and agreement with Phobos-Grunt mission managers, ESA engineers will end tracking support. Efforts to send commands to and receive data from the Russian Mars mission via ESA ground stations have not succeeded; no response has been seen from the satellite. ESA teams remain available to assist the Phobos-Grunt mission if indicated by any change in the situation,” said ESA in an official statement.
This likely won’t be the last we hear of the 13.2-ton spacecraft, as scientists expect it to fall back to Earth sometime in January. Most of its weight consists of highly toxic hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide fuel, which, according to NASA veteran James Oberg, makes the probe the “most toxic falling satellite ever.”
If the fuel has frozen in space, some of it could survive the fall to Earth, but if it’s liquid, it will probably burn away – along with the rest of the probe – when re-entering the atmosphere, experts say.
Source: Mashable Tech