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Mars Space Science

Russians Can't Make Contact With Busted Space Probe 117

New submitter benfrog writes "Despite repeated attempts over the past few days, Russia is unable to make contact with Phobos-Grunt, the probe that was supposed to make it to Mars and never left Earth's atmosphere. Estimates now vary widely on the time left to contact the probe, but it is descending toward Earth and will likely turn into scrap before it can be reached." Official information is still hard to come by, but the Planetary Society Weblog has been keeping up with the story.
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Russians Can't Make Contact With Busted Space Probe

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  • In Soviet Russia, probes call you
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Is it possible that one of Russia's fame space pencils broke, sending shards of graphite and wood into the instruments?

    This seems like another example of the shoddy workmanship that brought down the IIS resupply ship, and turned the Mir space station into a zero gravity death trap.

    • by tokul ( 682258 )

      turned the Mir space station into a zero gravity death trap

      It lasted longer than Skylab and Russians did not get bill for littering.

    • a zero gravity death trap.

      No, you're thinking of the broken toilet on the IIS. Trapped in close quarters with a bunch of other folks, orbiting the Earth in a tin can . . . and the toilet doesn't work.

      That, my friends, is a zero gravity fate worse then death. I wonder if they have NASA air freshener spray up there?

  • More of the same (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Titoxd ( 1116095 ) on Friday November 11, 2011 @04:29PM (#38028658) Homepage

    And Mars continues to give Russia a big, fat middle finger. No Russian/Soviet probe has successfully completed a mission to the Red Planet...

    • not just russia, mars seems to be a black hole for a lot of other missions as well.
      remember even sending things to another planet in our solar system is not easy..

    • by Tackhead ( 54550 ) on Friday November 11, 2011 @04:57PM (#38029008)

      And Mars continues to give Russia a big, fat middle finger. No Russian/Soviet probe has successfully completed a mission to the Red Planet...

      What are these "fingers" of which you speak, denizen of the Blue World?

      Planetary celebrations [slashdot.org] have been extended for a third day in the light of the latest victory of our special forces team.

      K'breel, speaker for the Council, declared:

      Our world grunts in united gleeful mockery over the pathetic invader's busted attempts to escape the Blue World's gravity well! Eight of our fallen warriors are remembered this day, their ichor still thick and gooey in the works of this invader's highly-charged exhaust!

      When a junior blogger for the Red Planetary Society suggested that the only ichor present on the stranded invader consisted of biological samples from the Blue World itself (as part of an experiment in xenobiology), K'Breel had the blogger's gelsacs sealed up in tiny canisters and fired into orbit for three days, and incinerated upon re-entry.

      Further rumors that despite the successful defense of Z'treem, the Blue World was prepared to launch a second invader - more mobile, powered by Pew-238, and armed with a glarbin' photonic ampradstim unit on its head, and that the Blue World was prepared to launch this invader within fifteen days - were not raised, and therefore did not need to be addressed by the Council at this time.

    • by tsotha ( 720379 )
      In other news, it turns out sending probes to other planets is hard.
      • You'd have a point if the probe failed on Mars or en route, as older Soviet orbiters and landers did. But it failed on Earth orbit. Sending probes to Earth orbit is not all that hard, we've been regularly doing that for decades.

        • by tsotha ( 720379 )
          It doesn't work like that. A complex mission profile adds complexity at every step. The Russians have been putting things in Earth orbit for a long time as well.
    • ...and they're bringing down the score. We were tied [anl.gov], but it looks like this puts Mars up by one.

  • by Wierdy1024 ( 902573 ) on Friday November 11, 2011 @04:35PM (#38028722)

    Plenty of good spacecraft suffer software malfunctions and fail as a result, and most failures end up with the craft not returning any data about what went wrong. Future crafts end up sent with exactly the same problems because we never find out about them.

    There already exist plans for tiny satellites which can transmit a radio signal back to earth - eg. the Kicksat :http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/251588730/kicksat-your-personal-spacecraft-in-space

    Why not glue lots of these Kicksats, self powered, to the outside of any spacecraft - maybe connect a few to internal data systems to collect more data. Now if the spacecraft blows up, if even a few survive the explosion, their radio signals can be tracked precisely by a reverse-gps scheme (where you triangulate exact position from many ground stations) allowing a realtime 3D model of the parts of the spacecraft which have kicksats on to be produced. Since some have connections to the internal monitoring systems, if only a few survive they can transmit data back to the ground very slowly over the next few days (very slowly since they have very limited transmission power)

    • Just what we want - more space junk. You'd do better by having a small 'flight data recorder' store bus signals, compress it, and dump it out to some other satellite or ground station.

      One of the big issues we're seeing (other than the actual failure, of course) is that Russia has limited ability to track the satellite from the ground. It's in a low orbit so each earth station has a very limited time to aquire the radio signals. I think the article quotes times on the order of 5 minutes. You don't know e

      • If you read the story or even the summery, it's not "space junk" its coming down very quickly.

        "Varying reports in the Russian media suggest the probe could fall to Earth and burn up in the atmosphere in the next few days – reports vary between 26 November and 3 December."

    • Why not glue lots of these Kicksats, self powered, to the outside of any spacecraft

      Because it's an expensive, heavy, and complex way to impose a huge performance penalty on the spacecraft with very low odds of actually gaining any useful data.

  • This mission was supposed to launch during the previous Earth-Mars window, 26 months ago, and they missed it due to technical issues. So they even had an extra 2 years to make sure this would work and they still couldn't pull it off. Gotta be a lot of Vodka being consumed in Baikonur right now...

    BTW - when I read the headline, I thought someone had arrested the craft....
    CmdrTaco - we still need you!!!

  • Space probe bust YOU!

  • The U.S. had to work hard to manage that feat. I figured at
    one time maybe there is life on Mars and it didn't want
    us there.

    "One explorer wanted a mm we gave it an inch, another just
    kept right on going spewing Hydrazine as it passed, others
    never left the launch pad.

    A better source than I:
    "The exploration of Mars has come at a considerable financial
    cost with roughly two-thirds of all spacecraft destined for Mars
    failing before completing their missions, with some failing before
    they even begin." http://en.wikip [wikipedia.org]

    • Seriously, few realize that this is hard work to have successful missions.
      That is also why we need to get away from 100% newly developed systems esp. for things like pushing there.
      A space tug that provides motion, electricity, even communication, would be a useful item to sell.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    The thing was probably built by Russian nerds. Everybody knows that nerds can't make contact with anything "busted". They should have built one with no bust, or a really fat one. Maybe then they might have had a chance.

  • by Hoi Polloi ( 522990 ) on Friday November 11, 2011 @05:01PM (#38029054) Journal

    Someone in the Russian space program is a big Doom fan it seems.

  • Anonymous (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 11, 2011 @05:03PM (#38029074)

    Ok Anonymous lets see what you script kiddies really have, take control and fire the cruise stage.

  • by AntEater ( 16627 ) on Friday November 11, 2011 @05:04PM (#38029084) Homepage

    I guess the editors really have dropped all pretense and have given up on the English language.

    • by jpapon ( 1877296 )
      I'm sorry, but what is wrong with saying "busted space probe"?

      I mean, you use the wore "keybinding" in your sig to refer to "computer key macros", so I would think that you have come to terms with the idea that language is in a constant state of flux. Stop being such a snooty prick and try making an argument that has actual import. Thanks.

  • by Panaflex ( 13191 ) <convivialdingo AT yahoo DOT com> on Friday November 11, 2011 @05:13PM (#38029198)

    That sucker is larger than UARS and fully fueled... Some say the fuel will freeze during re-entry, but I'm hoping Roland Emmerich will be on hand to film it.

    I hope they're able to save the mission... a huge blow to Russian space exploration.

  • Maybe they should have outsourced their space program to China

  • If it lands on Toronto it'll get rid of half the worlds communists.
  • by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Friday November 11, 2011 @06:15PM (#38029928) Journal
    But it is time for America to step forward. One idea that private space, esp. SpaceX, should consider is creating a set of tugs that can perform autodocking. That will allow private space to put in space tugs that have engines, solar panels for energy, batteries, etc. These would come in various size and be put up space with a load, or even put up with out a load, but then dock with various cargos. If private space gets these developed AND TESTED, then they can be used to carry loads around leo, geo, lunar and martian.

    SpaceX has perhaps one of the more interesting set-up. They have R&D, engineering, manufacturing lines, etc. With their varied engines, they could come up with multiple tugs that could hook to cargos. What is lacking is NOT fuel depots, but an automated docking system that will lock in 2 units securely and allow them to operate as one.
    • by Tastecicles ( 1153671 ) on Saturday November 12, 2011 @08:07AM (#38033986)

      It won't be America that steps forward - it'll be Private Sector. State-funded manned space exploration, as far as the United States is concerned, is a nonevent. With the end of the Shuttle Program, there is no further incentive for putting astronauts up there, even to the ISS. We're going to start seeing sponsor badges on spacesuits before long if the US is to have any further serious involvement in the ISS or any other manned space project, not to mention a return to the Moon.

  • Hey, maybe someone here can cut and paste from Wikipedia and tell them how to fix it! I mean, it's not that hard and just doing a simple firmware software update should fix it!
  • The problem (Score:5, Funny)

    by 0WaitState ( 231806 ) on Friday November 11, 2011 @06:19PM (#38029968)

    Somewhere on the probe, there is a cursor blinking on an small LCD screen ( or CRT, FFS), next to the letters:


    • by Anonymous Coward

      Keyboard Failure

      Strike the F1 key to continue, F2 to run the setup utility

  • They'll get through in no time.

  • by wisebabo ( 638845 ) on Friday November 11, 2011 @07:12PM (#38030548) Journal

    ... our turn is next with the very expensive (most expensive since Viking?) extremely ambitious (nuclear powered, "sky crane" lowered) giant (size of a mini-cooper) rover with no-backup! (no second rover)? Complete with rock vaporizing laser and 3D stereo cams!

    Seriously, there's gonna be a lot of fingernail biting about 6 months after the (hopefully successful) liftoff on Nov. 25. If you want to see how how crazy the whole landing scheme is try googling the video for "Curiosity". Not being an engineer I'm not qualified to comment on how good an approach this is but it sure looks scary. Forget airbags or soft landers, instead think maybe Tarzan or special forces insertion (a la killing Osama Bin Laden).

    Anyway, if you're in Southern California then, call in sick and head over to Pasadena. They usually have a live feed at the convention center for things like this.

    • by wanzeo ( 1800058 )

      Interesting. First I've heard of this, it's called the Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity Rover). Here's the official site [nasa.gov] and a nice animation [youtube.com].

      I agree, the landing sequence looks complex, but maybe the thin atmosphere of Mars makes rockets more reliable than parachutes. Also, it carries a radioisotope power source, so hopefully the dust problem will be avoided this time.

  • The Martian Defense Force strikes again.
  • Something's coming out of the transporters...

    SCNR ;-)

    Next episode: "Knee-deep in the dead"

  • The Ruskies burn the Planetary Society yet again; this time instead of destroying their solar sails, it will be their LIFE experiment which was supposed to send various humble life forms to and from Mars to see how they did in interplanetary space. In the 70's and 80' there was this romantic notion of joint Russian / American flights being the missions of the future. Seems as if Planetary Society bought into this whole hog but there must be some soul searching now. Intriguingly there might be some scient

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