November 3rd, 2015

Red Mars? Discovery of surface water spurs Chinese interest in lander

The gold coloured model, which is a third of the size of the actual probe, consists of an orbiter and a lander. (Photo: Long Wei, Asia News Photo)

Nearly two years ago, China became only the third country to make a soft landing on the moon when its Chang’e 3 spacecraft successfully deployed the Yutu rover. Now China appears increasingly set on doing the same thing on Mars.

This week at the 17th China International Industry Fair in Shanghai, the country’s Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation unveiled a model of a planned probe to Mars. Several Chinese news outlets have reported that the country’s space program continues to progress toward the launch of a robotic mission to Mars in 2020, including both an orbiting spacecraft as well as a lander.

China made an initial but unsuccessful attempt to reach Mars in November 2011 with its Yinghuo-1 spacecraft. However, that orbiter, a secondary payload on a Russian mission to the Mars moon of Phobos, was lost after the Russian Phobos-Grunt spacecraft failed to make the required number of burns to exit Earth orbit. Both the Russian and Chinese spacecraft eventually disintegrated over the Pacific Ocean as they fell through the atmosphere.

That failure dampened some of China’s enthusiasm for Mars, but NASA’s recent discovery of periodic, briny water flows on the red planet appears to have renewed the Chinese space agency’s interest.

December 18th, 2013

An Updated Mars Exploration Family Portrait The Planetary Society

The Mars Exploration Family Portrait shows every dedicated spacecraft mission to Mars, and now includes India’s Mars Orbiter Mission and NASA’s MAVEN. The dates listed are for launch.

October 23rd, 2013

Phobos-Grunt-2: Russia to probe Martian moon by 2022 Mars Daily

Russia is set to launch a probe to the Martian moon Phobos by 2022, the head of the Russian Space Research Institute has revealed. The renewal of the ambitious program, which includes taking samples of the moon’s soil, comes despite previous failure.
“We plan to get back to Phobos in 2020-2022,” the institute’s director, Lev Zeleny, announced on Tuesday, speaking at the Russian Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
The new interplanetary probe mission will become “a springboard for implementing other similar international programs,” he added. It is currently codenamed “Boomerang.”
Earlier in April, the scientist said that the mission to the Martian vicinity will be repeated despite the failure of the Phobos-Grunt probe in 2011.

January 31st, 2012

Russia blames radiation for space probe failure AP

The head of Russia’s space agency said Tuesday that cosmic radiation was the most likely cause of the failure of a Mars moon probe that crashed to Earth this month, and suggested that a low-quality imported component may have been vulnerable to the radiation. The unmanned Phobos-Grunt probe was to have gone to the Mars moon of Phobos, taken soil samples and brought them back. But it became stuck in Earth orbit soon after its launch on Nov. 9. It fell out of orbit on Jan. 15, reportedly off the coast of Chile, but no fragments have been found.
The failure was a severe embarrassment to Russia, and Popovkin initially suggested it could have been due to foreign sabotage.
But on Tuesday he said in televised remarks that an investigation showed the probable cause was “localized influence of heavily radiated space particles.”

January 15th, 2012

Phobos-Grunt: Failed Russian Mars Probe Falls to Earth ABCNews

Somewhere, probably in the southern Pacific between New Zealand and South America, the failed Russian Phobos-Grunt Mars probe returned ignominiously to Earth today, said the Russian space agency Roscosmos and the U.S. Space Command.
The agencies said they believed the ship reentered the atmosphere shortly before 1 p.m. ET.

January 15th, 2012

Failed Russia Mars probe set to crash today NDTV

Russia’s space agency on Sunday called off all predictions of the likely crash site of its ill-fated Mars probe only hours before the 13.5-tonne spacecraft was due to begin its fatal descent.
Roscosmos said on its website that fragments of the stranded Phobos-Grunt voyager would probably fall to Earth on Sunday between 1436 GMT and 2224 GMT.
But it cancelled its Saturday forecast of the debris splashing down in the Pacific off the western coast of Chile. Two earlier updates had the fragments falling into the Indian and Atlantic Oceans.
“The operations support group is keeping continuous watch of the Phobos-Grunt spacecraft’s descent from orbit,” the brief Roscosmos statement said.
The unmanned $165 million vessel — stuck in orbit since its November 9 launch — will be one of the largest objects to re-enter the atmosphere since Russia brought down the Soviet-era Mir space station in 2001.

January 14th, 2012

Reports vary about failed Russian Mars probe’s reentry time RIA Novosti

Doomed Russian Phobos-Grunt Mars probe that’s been stuck in Earth orbit for two months may finally come crashing down on January 15 over the Pasific Ocean, Russia’s space agency Roscosmos said on Saturday.
Roscosmos said the spacecraft will fall within the eight-hour interval starting from 18:36 on Sunday Moscow time [14:36 GMT] to 2:24 on Monday [22:24 Sunday GMT]. The possible scatter zone is 51.4 degrees North latitude to 51.4 degrees South latitude.
As of 20.30 Saturday, the spacecraft was moving in the near-Earth orbit with an altitude that varied between 144.6 km at perigee and 167.1 km at apogee, the Russian space agency said.
According to the latest report from the U.S. Strategic Command, the failed probe would hit Earth’s atmosphere between 17:26 Moscow time Sunday [13:26] and 03:02 Moscow time Monday [23:02 Sunday GMT]. It puts the altitude at between 138.1 km at perigee and 160.2 km at apogee.

January 12th, 2012

Failed Russian Mars probe may fall to Earth on Sunday MSNBC

A doomed Russian Mars probe that’s been stuck in Earth orbit for two months may finally come crashing down Sunday over the Indian Ocean, Russian space officials say.
The 14.5-ton Phobos-Grunt spacecraft should fall back to Earth between Saturday and Monday (Jan. 14 to Jan. 16), Russia’s Federal Space Agency, known as Roscosmos, announced in a statement Wednesday.
If Phobos-Grunt comes down at the “central point” in that window — 5:18 a.m. EST on Sunday — it will fall over a stretch of empty ocean west of the Indonesian island of Java, according to a re-entry projection map Roscosmos published with the update.

January 12th, 2012

Russian Official Suggests Weapon Caused Exploration Spacecraft’s Failure The New York Times

A Russian scientific spacecraft whizzing out of control around the Earth, and expected to re-enter the atmosphere on Saturday, may have failed because it was struck by some type of antisatellite weapon, the director of Russia’s space agency said in an interview published Tuesday. He did not say who would want to interfere with the spacecraft, which was intended to explore a moon of Mars. Russia has not succeeded in sending a spacecraft to Mars since the 1980s. An attempt in 1996 to launch a Mars lander that could burrow below the planet’s surface failed because of a flaw in the rocket that carried it.
Phobos-Grunt, which took about five years to build and cost $160 million at current exchange rates, was launched from the Baikonur spaceport in Kazakhstan on Nov. 9; it also carried a small Chinese Mars orbiter.

January 7th, 2012

Video tracks stricken Mars probe BBC

The failed Russian Mars probe Phobos-Grunt has been pictured moving across the sky by the Paris-based amateur astronomer Thierry Legault.
The spacecraft is seen moving left to right in the video. The bulbous shape of its fuel tanks and its outstretched solar panels are easily discernable.
Mr Legault uses a sophisticated telescopic tracking system and captured similar imagery of Nasa’s defunct UARS satellite last year.
Phobos-Grunt is falling to Earth.
It is expected to re-enter the atmosphere in the next 8-9 days and burn up.