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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 Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 09, 2011 @07:44AM (#37997544)

    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.

  • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <> 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.

"An organization dries up if you don't challenge it with growth." -- Mark Shepherd, former President and CEO of Texas Instruments