Updated: Phobos-Grunt reentering upper atmosphere

Update 12:10 AM CDT: nothing official but it seems to have reentered and crashed into Pacific Ocean a few mins ago. Click image above for latest info.

Follow the latest events on Twitter using the hashtag #PhobosGrunt and follow @PHG_Reentry.

The ill-fated Phobos-Grunt mission, which would have returned samples from the tiny Martian satellite Phobos, will plunge into the stratosphere later today and become a spectacular meteor. Debris from the 15 ton spacecraft, which is carying more than 10 tons of toxic rocket fuel, is expected to strike the earth, although where exactly that happens is still literally up in the air:

(ABCNews) — Roscosmos said the unmanned Phobos-Ground will crash between 1641 and 2105 GMT (11:41 a.m. and 4:05 p.m. EST). It could crash anywhere along the route of its next few orbits, which would include Europe, southeast Asia, Australia and South America. The U.S., Canada and much of Russia are outside the risk zone.

Russia has had terrible luck with missions to Mars, several attempts to teach the Red Planet by the nucleus of the former USSR’s space program have ended in failure. Enough that some weird conspiracy theories of alien or government intervention have began popping up. The explanation is far more mundane of course: Russia’s unmanned space program, once considered first class and second only to the US, has been underfunded and undermanned since the fall of the Soviet Union 20 years ago. Lack of resources and manpower comes with heavy cost in space exploration and we’re seeing that playing out at the edge of space today with Phobos-Grunt.


  1. Trebuchet says

    “Up in the air”? I see what you did there! Pretty tenuous air at the moment, however.

    Meanwhile the head of the Russian Space agency is blaming mysterious forces on the other side of the world:

    No other way did not exist. Today there is no clarity as to why not start the propulsion system “Phobos-Grunt.” It is also unclear frequent failures of our vehicles in the period when they fly over Russia’s shadow side of the earth – where we do not see the device and do not take it with telemetry. I do not want to accuse anyone, but today there is a very powerful impact on the spacecraft, possible applications that can not be ruled out.

    (From Isvestia, as translated by Google.) http://www.izvestia.ru/news/511258

  2. Phillip IV says

    It is also unclear frequent failures of our vehicles in the period when they fly over Russia’s shadow side of the earth – where we do not see the device and do not take it with telemetry.

    Goddamn Easter Islanders! I always found those creepy stone heads suspicious!

    Seriously, though, I kinda miss the Cold War – so that Russian official’s statements make me really feel nostalgic.

  3. StevoR says

    Phobos-Grunt is down somewhere in the Pacific apparently.


    BBC news online says (link above) that it has fallen into the ocean about 1,000 km west of Chile.

    Condolences to all those involved – such as Emily lakdawalla of tehplanetary society blog whohad an experiment aboard – sad to lose it. Vale Phobos-Grunt.

    Hope there’s a Phoenix moment with a rebuild /redo of this to follow.

  4. StevoR says

    This youtube animation shows us what were missing :


    (All in Russian, alas, can’t find any english translation.)

    While this link :


    Takes you to Emily Lakdawalla’s blog page on the fall of Phobos-grunt. The Bad Astronomy blog and wikipedia (among others) have good entries on this too – hope its okay to mention that here netiquette~wise, apologies & please let me know if not.

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