Video courtesy of NMANewsDirect
The Russian Phobos-Grunt probe which was carrying tons of toxic fuel – has returned to Earth. The spacecraft was supposed to land on Phobos, one of two Martian moons (the other is named Deimos). It also has earned the dubious distinction of being the largest and most toxic piece of space junk to ever reenter Earth’s atmosphere. Experts have stated that most of the probe should have burned up in the atmosphere.
On Sunday Jan. 15, 2012 Phobos-Grunt re-entered the atmosphere at about 17:45 UTC. Predictions that the spacecraft would crash in Argentina were proven inaccurate. Phobos-Grunt ended up splashing down in the Pacific Ocean, just west of Chile.
The probe’s intended destination was the Martian moon Phobos, however it never left Earth orbit. There were numerous attempts to reestablish contact with the spacecraft, including several by the European Space Agency (ESA) – all ultimately failed.
Phobos-Grunt carried approximately 11 tons of highly-toxic hydrazine and nitrogen-tetroxide fuel on board when it reentered the atmosphere. According to Roscosmos, the Russian equivalent of NASA, the spacecraft should have been completely incinerated upon reentry.
According to a recently-released NASA press kit Phobos-Grunt marks the 19th mission that Russia has sent to the Mars system. Of them 17 were total failures, one lasted a few minutes on the Martian surface, the other – lasted a few days. It has been suggested by some experts in the industry that Russia might want to invest in cooperative agreements with international agencies – which have proven track records of either getting vehicles into Martian orbit or landing them on the surface of the Red Planet.