Russia’s Mars spacecraft falls in Pacific Ocean

January 16th, 2012 - 6:46 am ICT by IANS  

Moscow, Jan 16 (IANS/RIA Novosti) Doomed Russian Phobos-Grunt Mars probe spacecraft, which had been stuck in Earth orbit for two months, crashed down in the Pacific Ocean late Sunday.

Launched Nov 9, Phobos-Grunt was designed to bring back rock and soil samples from the Martian moon Phobos. However, it had been stuck in a so-called support orbit since its engines failed to put it on course for the Red Planet.

“Phobos-Grunt fragments have crashed down in the Pacific Ocean,” said Russia’s Defence Ministry official Alexei Zolotukhin, adding that the fragments fell in 1,250 km the west of the island of Wellington.

The spacecraft fell at about 9.45 Sunday.

As of 8.15 Sunday, the spacecraft was moving in the near-Earth orbit with an altitude that varied between 113.8 km at perigee and 133.2 km at apogee, said the Russian space agency Roscosmos.

The head of Roscosmos, Vladimir Popovkin, previously said the probe would break up during re-entry into the atmosphere and none of the fragments were likely to reach the Earth.

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.

–IANS/RIA Novosti

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