14 November 2011, 15:18

Uphill battle for Phobos-Grunt

Uphill battle for Phobos-Grunt
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Russian engineers are scrambling to salvage a robotic Mars moon probe that is stuck in orbit around Earth, but they are facing an uphill battle to get the spacecraft back on a path to the Red Planet before it becomes just another piece of space junk.

Russian engineers are scrambling to salvage a robotic Mars moon probe that is stuck in orbit around Earth, but they are facing an uphill battle to get the spacecraft back on a path to the Red Planet before it becomes just another piece of space junk. According to Russian officials, the Phobos-Grunt spacecraft launched Tuesday separated from its Zenit rocket as planned but the probe's own thrusters failed to fire in a maneuver that would have sent Phobos-Grunt on a trajectory toward Mars. Now the spacecraft, which is also carrying China's first Mars orbiter, is trapped in orbit as engineers race to solve the problem and save the mission. Anatoly Zak, who runs the website RussianSpaceWeb.com, says the aim of the mission was for the spacecraft to land on the Martian moon Phobos and take a probe of its soil.

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