Russia’s troubled Phobos-Grunt spacecraft will fall back to Earth on January 9, the United States Strategic Command said.
Phobos-Grunt, launched on November 9, was designed to bring back rock and soil samples from the Martian moon Phobos. However, it has been stuck in a so-called support orbit since its engines failed to put it on course for the Red Planet.
The head of Russia’s Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), Vladimir Popovkin, previously said the probe would break up during reentry into the atmosphere and none of the fragments are likely to reach the Earth.
That includes the spacecraft’s 7.5 tons of fuel, which are stored in aluminum tanks that are bound to explode upon reentry.
According to NASA, Russia has failed in all 17 of its attempts to study the Red Planet close-up since 1960. The most recent failure before last month occurred in 1996, when Russia lost its Mars-96 orbiter during launch.