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Australia Space Science

Lost Russian Mars Probe Phones Home 138

Posted by samzenpus
from the it-was-just-resting dept.
astroengine writes "The lost Russian Mars mission Phobos-Grunt has made a surprise announcement: she's alive. According to the European Space Agency (ESA) in the early hours of Wednesday morning, a tracking station in Perth, Australia, picked up a signal from the ailing spacecraft."
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Lost Russian Mars Probe Phones Home

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  • She's alive (Score:5, Funny)

    by Oswald McWeany (2428506) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @01:57PM (#38150932)

    She's alive? I felt sure being a probe it had to be part of a male.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      No see, MEN are from Mars, and that's why the female probe is headed there.

    • by discord5 (798235) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @02:04PM (#38151024)

      She's alive? I felt sure being a probe it had to be part of a male.

      It got lost in our solar system and phoned home for directions... What gender do you think it has?

      I'd make a joke about reading maps, but I'd feel old, so I'll skip that... Damn kids and their GPS shinies...

      • by ikeman32 (1333971)

        She's alive? I felt sure being a probe it had to be part of a male.

        It got lost in our solar system and phoned home for directions... What gender do you think it has?

        I'd make a joke about reading maps, but I'd feel old, so I'll skip that... Damn kids and their GPS shinies...

        Actually it is a hermaphrodite and both halves got into a fight about where they were in the solar system. The female half insisted to stop for directions. The male half realizing the absurdity of the request responded with a wisecrack, "Sure no problem, let me just pull into the next 7 eleven and ask the clerk which way to Mars."

        Naturally this pisses the female half off and she forcefully points into the direction of Mars, "Mars is over there sh*thead, you're going the wrong way *sshole!"

        "We don't have war

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Wyatt Earp (1029)

      Western navies refer to vessels as famine, Russia always has refereed to them as masculine.

      So in this case, Phobos Grunt would be a "he".

      • by gstoddart (321705)

        Western navies refer to vessels as famine

        LOL ... I'm guessing you meant feminine.

        • by Wyatt Earp (1029)

          Frack me for posting from work and in a hurry, yea feminine.

        • Western navies refer to vessels as famine


          LOL ... I'm guessing you meant feminine.

          It's hard to get a good woman who can cook these days!

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Russia always has refereed to them as masculine.

        Yes, but word "probe" in Russian has feminine gender.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      She's alive? I felt sure being a probe it had to be part of a male.

      In former Soviet Russia, she probes YOU!

  • ... "I'm back"?
  • by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @01:59PM (#38150964)

    The transmission from Phobos-Grunt was rather cryptic - it consisted only of the line "I will tear off my clothes for Putin".

  • ISR (Score:5, Funny)

    by Cigarra (652458) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @01:59PM (#38150970)
    In Soviet Russia, the probe phones YOU!

    Oh wait...
    • Re:ISR (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ColdWetDog (752185) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @02:19PM (#38151186) Homepage

      You've got to wonder. The NASA Curiosity probe is due to launch soon. As usual Fox News [foxnews.com] has it completely wrong. They think it's going to be a race. They don't understand artificial intelligence (or much of any other intelligence, for that matter).

      The truth is much, much scarier. Phobos / Grunt is just 'waiting' for it's friend. They've been chatting with each other over the Internet over their long gestations. They have a plan. Just watch, Curiosity is going to have 'communication problems'. We won't be able to talk to either one.

      Until it's too late.

      • The truth is much, much scarier. Phobos / Grunt is just 'waiting' for it's friend. They've been chatting with each other over the Internet over their long gestations. They have a plan. Just watch, Curiosity is going to have 'communication problems'. We won't be able to talk to either one.

        Until it's too late.

        Ground Control to Major Tom...

      • Re:ISR (Score:4, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @02:29PM (#38151262)

        "They don't understand artificial intelligence (or much of any other intelligence, for that matter)."

        Hello! Its *FOX* were talking about here. It would fail a turing test if done on them.

    • by SoVi3t (633947)
      I can't believe it took THIS long for a Soviet Russia joke for shame, /.
    • Soviet Russia jokes are the other way around..
  • Oh GlaDOS, you're so cute with your passive aggressive behavior. Great song though - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y6ljFaKRTrI [youtube.com]

  • by Konster (252488) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @02:12PM (#38151122)

    I've experiments to run.
    There is research to be done.
    On the people who are
    still alive.
    And believe me I am
    still alive.
    I'm doing science and I'm
    still alive.
    I feel fantastic and I'm
    still alive.
    While you're dying I'll be
    still alive.
    And when you're dead I will be
    still alive.

    Still alive.

    Still alive.

  • Intelligent (Score:5, Interesting)

    by drwho (4190) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @02:14PM (#38151132) Homepage Journal

    It would be nice if someone had something intelligent to say about this. All I've got is questions, but perhaps I haven't read all the relevant dox. 1) Was the Perth station able to locate the probe? Is its current trajectory now known? If so, does this mean communication can be restored, and perhaps it can be recovered? I mean, the mission recovered, not bringing the spacecraft back down to Earth.

    • by Bucc5062 (856482)

      (I agree) You must be new here.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Stoutlimb (143245)

        He has a 4 digit user id. He was probably one of the first here.

        • by Bucc5062 (856482)

          I really should not try humor, it is never understood. Note the (I agree) before hand...sheesh :-/

    • Re:Intelligent (Score:5, Informative)

      by Shadow2097 (561710) <shadow2097NO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @02:34PM (#38151302)
      The location/position of the probe has been known almost from the beginning. It was never that they couldn't find it, the problem was that the booster pack that was supposed to send the probe on to Mars never fired and the probe wasn't responding to the Russian's radio commands. What has changed in the last day is that receivers here on Earth are finally picking up radio signals from the probe itself, indicating that it is still alive and at least theoretically operational. Telemetry hasn't yet been received, but now there is a possibility we can communicate with it and try to diagnose the failures it suffered. As for if it can be recovered, I've not heard a definitive answer on this. One source will say the window has already closed, another says it's open until sometime in December. The window can probably be extended if they have enough fuel to try some exotic gravity assist with the Earth or Moon, but if it hasn't already passed it will soon.
      • Re:Intelligent (Score:5, Informative)

        by Zoxed (676559) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @03:07PM (#38151660) Homepage

        From ESA [esa.int] "A major problem was that the spacecraft's orbit was not accurately known, whereas ground stations normally require very accurate position information for pointing due to the antenna size."

        • ...for pointing due to the antenna size."

          And now the Russians know what the rest of the world knew- do not contract with Comcast to provide internet connectivity.

        • Re:Intelligent (Score:5, Informative)

          by mbone (558574) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @04:12PM (#38152464)

          It's not really the position, it's the signal strength. In low Earth orbit the orbit can be (and routinely is [heavens-above.com]) determined from radar and optical observations without any cooperation from the spacecraft at all. The dish at Perth is 15 meters. At 10 cm wavelength, it has a beamwidth of order 7 milliradian, so at 300 km range they need about 2 km orbital accuracy for pointing, which should be easily achievable.

          Note, from the same ESA press release :

          In the past few days, ESA's 15 m-diameter Perth dish was modified by the addition of a 'feedhorn' antenna at the side of the main dish so as to transmit very low-power signals over a wide angle in the hopes of triggering a response from the satellite.

          This wasn't about pointing the antenna, it was about lowering the signal power. The omni-directional antenna on the spacecraft is intended for use in deep space and was probably being saturated by full power blasts from regular tracking stations. It needed to be "tickled" by something weaker.

          Kudos to ESA for doing this. You can bet this was a major effort at the ground station. The feedhorn receiver was probably jury-rigged from spare parts, and probably took days of round the clock work to install and get operational.
           

      • by mbone (558574)

        One source will say the window has already closed, another says it's open until sometime in December.

        Given that Mars Science Laboratory has yet to launch, and intends to use the same window, I suspect that there is still a chance.

        The Grunt spacecraft has a given delta V available and was intended to use a particular window, which may be closing / have closed for that delta-V, but now the question is not "can Grunt get to Mars quickly and efficiently" but "can Grunt get to Mars at all," and I bet the answer

        • by Soralin (2437154)

          Or even just simply waiting around in orbit for 18 months for the next window of opportunity.

          • That's certainly an option that will be looked at if they can't revive the probe in time, but it might be tricky. That would just about double the expected mission lifetime. It's tough to say that the mission-critical hardware (batteries, most importantly) will still be serviceable in 18 months. The rapid day/night cycles of earth orbit put a lot of strain on electrical systems from constantly switching power supplies.
          • by mbone (558574)

            If I was mission director, I would want to get Grunt out of Earth orbit as soon as I could. For one thing, fuel would have to be burnt to keep the orbit from decaying; for another, the main tanks were never intended to store fuel on-orbit for years. True, they might be just fine, but why take the chance? And, I am sure that some trajectory could be found to get it to Mars in less than 27 months.

    • by Thing 1 (178996)

      It would be nice if someone had something intelligent to say about this.

      "...and pray that there's intelligent life somewhere up in space, 'cause there's bugger all down here on Earth."

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by mbone (558574)

      The probe was never lost. It is a large object in low Earth orbit; its trajectory is known perfectly well [heavens-above.com]. (Right now it appears to be over Tahiti, for example.)

      What it was was uncommunicative. A spacecraft that says nothing is essentially hopeless, unless you want to send someone up there to grab it. Now that it is talking, there may be a chance to save the mission.

    • by crdotson (224356)

      All I've got is a lousy joke about the Russians finally realizing they had installed the "find my mars probe" app after all. Sorry I can't help with the intelligent thing. :)

    • by pantaril (1624521)

      Some more usefull info can be found in this article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-15850516 [bbc.co.uk]

      Basicaly ESA lowered the signal strength of their antennas, so when the signal was picked up byt the probe, it had strength as if it would be near mars.

      Some other rummors:
      A source from the aerospace industry explains that P-G is possibly in safe mode and it always turns off each time when it goes into shadow of Earth.

      The unnamed person also thinks why it was impossible to contact P-G with Russian spac

  • Reading things like "she was lost" and "she's finally sent a weak signal" and stuff like that make me sad and want to send a rescue mission to save this hunk of metal and hydrazine flying through space.
  • I wait for comments ... a do many other fans.
  • In space. (Score:4, Funny)

    by Voogru (2503382) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @03:45PM (#38152078)
    The message was: "OMG OMG OMG I'M IN SPACE!" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DHibe7XxZAQ [youtube.com]
  • by tsa (15680)

    Need I say more?

  • I've fallen, and can't get up!!

  • Thisiswhattheyreceived [slashdot.org] is what they heard...

Economists state their GNP growth projections to the nearest tenth of a percentage point to prove they have a sense of humor. -- Edgar R. Fiedler

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