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Space Science Technology

Phobos-Grunt Launches To Retrieve a Sample of Phobos 65

An anonymous reader writes with news that Russia's Phobos-Grunt spacecraft has launched, taking the first step on its mission to travel to Phobos, the larger of Mars' two moons. When (and if — see below) it lands on Phobos, the probe will collect a soil sample and attempt to return it to Earth. "Russia’s Federal Space Agency said the craft separated successfully from the booster about 11 minutes later. ... The return vehicle is expected to carry up to 200 grams (7 ounces) of soil from Phobos back to Earth in August 2014. The $170 million endeavor would be Russia’s first interplanetary mission since Soviet times. A previous 1996 robotic mission to Mars ended in failure when the probe crashed in the Pacific following an engine failure." Unfortunately, there appears to have been a problem with the launch. Details are uncertain at this point, but the probe reportedly made it to orbit intact, and the mission is not necessarily ruined.
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Phobos-Grunt Launches To Retrieve a Sample of Phobos

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  • by jd ( 1658 )

    ...don't say the programming is wrong and it'll now take a chunk out of the Earth and fly it to Phobos!

    • ...don't say the programming is wrong and it'll now take a chunk out of the Earth and fly it to Phobos!

      In Soviet Russia...

    • by DZign ( 200479 )

      I'm only interested in the results of this mission when they find samples of leather godesses :-)

    • by psergiu ( 67614 ) on Wednesday November 09, 2011 @08:14AM (#37997704)

      The Council of Elders has declared a planet-wide celebration in the light of the latest victory of our special forces team.

      K'breel, speaker for the Council, declared:

      Oh, what a joyous day, our special forces, from their forward base in orbit around the Evil Blue Planet has scored another victory against the enemy. Their plan of sending a mechanized invader on our holly moon Z'treem was foiled - eight of our best warriors have sacrificed themselves and blocked the invader's reactive engine with their bodies, drowning the mechanized monster in their own ichor. Let's forever praise the courage of our warriors.

    • LOL!
  • by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Wednesday November 09, 2011 @03:45AM (#37996380)

    Update 5:09 PST. The Phobos-Grunt spacecraft has not been found in its predicted orbit.

    Update 5:45 PST. A Deep Space Network source indicates that the spacecraft is in safe mode, and the engine burn was never performed. The spacecraft could be reset, and the mission might be recoverable. Stay tuned.

    Update 7:13 PST. Vladimir Putin has announced he will be going into orbit to save the mission. He plans to pilot his craft as close to the Phobos-Grunt spacecraft as possible. He will then exit the craft (EVA), remove his shirt and throw Phobos-Grunt to Mars.

    • hahaha, that's awesome.

      A TV show here in Australia has a segment called "WHAT WOULD PUTIN DO?" (show is about advertising), goes over his many exploits doing things such as this (saving whales, saving babies, saving baby whales, whatever).

      Good show old chap, if I had mod points, you'd have them.

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Update 12:00 PST. Vladimir Putin reports that "The cacodemons aren't so difficult".

    • FYI, for those who don't know the language: "Vladimir Putin" is Russian for "Chuck Norris".
  • by MacTO ( 1161105 ) on Wednesday November 09, 2011 @04:11AM (#37996492)

    Mars is for Amerika. Venus is for Russia.

    Seriously. Look at where each nation has had its successes and failures.

  • by tigersha ( 151319 ) on Wednesday November 09, 2011 @04:16AM (#37996520) Homepage

    That must be the singulary most expensive stuff on the planet!

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I get 170000000/200 = 850000. Did you mistype 200 as 144.5 ?

      • by Anonymous Coward

        He included the import tax.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <mojo@wo[ ] ['rld' in gap]> on Wednesday November 09, 2011 @08:59AM (#37997954) Homepage Journal

      $170m is actually pretty cheap for this sort of thing. Russia has always been good at making cheap but generally reliable space hardware. On paper it may seem like they have more failures than NASA or the ESA, but that is because they spend less time testing on the ground and more time testing in space. Even when things go wrong the overall cost is usually lower and development more rapid.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Ahem...since when have they had a successfull Mars mission? Since, like, forever....

      • On paper it may seem like they have more failures than NASA or the ESA

        When things don't work, it's a failure. Doesn't matter how much you did or didn't spend. There's no "on paper" involved. ($170M is really cheap, though.)

        they spend less time testing on the ground and more time testing in space.

        Testing after launch isn't called "testing" anymore. It's called "really hoping things go well on this crap shoot" followed by "failure". That's why this stuff is expensive, by the way: You either do it right, or you get nothing. Well, maybe you get a fireball or a crater, but you don't get any science.

    • by guruevi ( 827432 )

      Don't worry, HP ink cartridges are more expensive I think.

    • That must be the singulary most expensive stuff on the planet!

      I see what you did there.

  • According to the latest news. Also failed to find the Sun, and there are three days of battery power left before it's dead. BTW grunt means soil in Russian
  • Uh, don't get me wrong here, it takes a lot of fuel and energy to get something to Mars.... and then back again. But the lunar moon lander returned with ~300 pounds of material. It seems that after all of the engineering, R&D money and development, it would only be an additional 1% to the project cost to bring back 10 pounds of the stuff. 7 oz is going to be hugely helpful to science, but most of the trip is spent coasting to and from it's destination - there isn't that much additional fuel involved in

    • by ZankerH ( 1401751 ) on Wednesday November 09, 2011 @04:24AM (#37996558)

      there isn't that much additional fuel involved in bumping the payload up from a single serving soda to a family size 12 pack, is there?

      For a retun trip to mars, the mass ratio is around 100 parts fuel for 1 part sample return. It scales pretty linearly. It doesn't matter that it spends most time coasting, you have to accelerate it to the same delta-v regardless of the mass.

  • Due to an engine problem, the mission failed []. Too bad.
    • it is yet unknown whether it is an engine problem or software glitch. if it's the latter, they will attempt to upload an updated version and send it off. main engine hasn't fired, so they still have fuel. however, they have only three days to find out the problem with software, batteries won't last for much longer.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 09, 2011 @08:51AM (#37997908)

      Yeah... ./ shows me that it links to FOX "News". Sorry mate. Ain't gonna fall for that. It's like the Goatse of news. If you like what you see, sonething is wrong with you. ;)

  • by nounderscores ( 246517 ) on Wednesday November 09, 2011 @04:45AM (#37996676)

    The only way to reliably get from earth to phobos is teleporting via hell.

  • First they send probes... then they make a colony researching interdimensional transport... This never works out.

  • I wonder if it might be possible to point a laser at the craft's solar panels to recharge its batteries? That is if it has opened its solar panels and they are pointing towards Earth at least some of the time?
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I suspect that if the panels have deployed and point at the earth, lack of power will be the least of their concerns. I base this on my experience from having a solar panel on my sailboat, which probably is several orders of magnitude cheaper and less efficient, but still generates 20-30 % of its maximum amps during cloudy days and when the sail and mast is blocking the sun. The light reflected from the earth must be enough to give them the power needed to salvage the spacecraft, if it can be done at all.

  • This sounds like the beginning of a bad scifi movie. You know, like the ones they used to show on that SyFy channel, until they started showing wrestling instead.

  • Something's coming out of the transporters...

  • The last time we sent something to Phobos and Demos to try and scan was mysteriously destroyed. The last image showed a strange saucer-shaped shadow, if I remember correctly.
  • Am I the only one who read the words Phobos and Grunt like the announcer in Quake 3 when bots are joining a game?

  • I can't help but believe that the real reason they're going to Phobos is to take a look at that "monument".

Bell Labs Unix -- Reach out and grep someone.