‘LOST’ RUSSIAN MARS PROBE PHONES HOME
Analysis by Ian O’Neill
- Wed Nov 23, 2011 03:40 AM ET
Within minutes, the promised news appeared on the agency’s website:
On Tuesday, 22 November at 20:25 UT, ESA’s tracking station at Perth, Australia, established contact with Russia’s Phobos-Grunt spacecraft. This was the first signal received on Earth since the Mars mission was launched on 8 November. ESA teams are working closely with engineers in Russia to determine how best to maintain communications with the spacecraft. More news will follow later.
This is obviously a surprise, especially as the 13-ton probe hasn’t signaled ground stations at all since itslaunch from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Nov. 8.
For a long period, Russian space officials remained silent, and the only news on the fate of the spacecraft came from other space agencies, amateur astronomers and leaks from individuals within the Russian space industry.
On Tuesday (Nov. 22), Roscosmos broke its silence and confirmed that there was “little chance” of salvaging the mission.
But after Wednesday morning’s dramatic turn of events, is there a tiny glimmer of hope that if communications with the probe can commence, perhaps the mission isn’t doomed after all?
That might be a bit of a stretch — after all, no one is sure what the problem is; whether it’s a software glitch or complete hardware failure. There is no way to know if communications will continue, or whether the Perth ground station was lucky.
But one thing is for certain, something is ticking inside the onboard electronics of Phobos-Grunt, perhaps it’s the leverage Russian engineers need to gain access and correct the problem.
Image: The ESTRACK station in Perth, Australia (ESA/SpaceTerra)
- Stranded Mars probe lets out a tiny cry for help (blogs.nature.com)
- ESA Makes Contact With Doomed Russian Mars Moon Craft Phobos-Grunt (techie-buzz.com)
- Stranded Phobos-Grunt Mars probe sends ‘first sign of life’ signal (news.nationalpost.com)
- Lost Russian Mars Probe Phones Home (science.slashdot.org)
- It’s Alive! Russia’s Phobos-Grunt Probe Phones Home (space.com)
- Europeans report contact with Russia’s Mars probe (msnbc.msn.com)
- Stranded Mars probe sends signal (bbc.co.uk)
- ESA tracking station establishes contact with Russia’s Mars mission (spacefellowship.com)
- Russia finds its lost Mars probe, but can mission be salvaged? (csmonitor.com)
- Russia Is Resigned to Losing Mars Moon Probe (abcnews.go.com)
- It’s ALIVE! Broken Russian Mars probe finally answers calls (go.theregister.com)
- Signal received from Phobos Grunt (ktwop.wordpress.com)
- BBC News – Stricken Mars probe stays silent (mbcalyn.com)
- Russian Mars probe heads into space WITHOUT ENGINES (go.theregister.com)
- Russia’s Mars moon probe breaks 2-week silence – CBS News (cbsnews.com)
- Signal Picked Up From Stranded Russian Mars Probe (israelnationalnews.com)