Grunt work

UPDATE: 1/15/2012 11:30AM PST The probe is down, but see how the BBC fouled up the reporting of it here -Anthony

Look up in the air, it’s a bird, its a plane, no it’s Phobos-Grunt! Video follows.

An artist's impression (M. Carroll) of Phobos-Grunt re-entry into Earth's atmosphere - Image: gawker.com

From Sky News: An out of control Russian spacecraft could crash land on southern England sometime this weekend, scientists have warned.

The minibus-sized Phobos Grunt is loaded with 11 tonnes of fuel that was supposed to take it to Mars and one of its moons.

But the on-board computer failed shortly after take-off last November and the spacecraft’s orbit of the Earth has been getting lower ever since.

Chief engineer at the UK Space Agency Professor Richard Crowther said it is expected to explode as it enters the atmosphere, scattering debris along a 200km track – anywhere between the M4 corridor and the Falkland Islands.

But he told Sky News that fragments are most likely to fall into the sea: “If you look at the Earth from space, most of it is covered by water.

“The UK is very small by comparison. The probability of it falling in such a small area is very, very low.

“It doesn’t keep me awake at night.”

The Russian space agency Roscosmos estimates that between 20 and 30 fragments, weighing 200kg in total, will make it back to the Earth’s surface.

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It doesn’t look good:

Image from heavens-above.com

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82 Responses to Grunt work

  1. LearDog says:

    Rur roh….

    The question I have is not so much about the debris – but the 7 tons of hydrazine on board….in aluminum container. I’m thinking ‘explosion’ – but can that occur in the upper reaches of the atmosphere?

    Further – one has to keep in mind that specific components of this craft were DESIGNED to survive re-entry into the atmosphere…. They’re going to land – its merely a question of where….

  2. Should be renamed “Grunt-o-Phobia”. Simple enough.

  3. ShrNfr says:

    But you can never be too careful though. Give me a $100 MM grant and I will develop a model for where it will hit based on tree rings from Siberia. Predictive? Nah. Lucrative, you betcha. So what if my paper will come long after the thing has hit. Think of our children and grandchildren. Or at least think of mine. I could leave them a lot of taxpayer money with that kind of grant.

  4. Matthew W says:

    Amazing that with the “stuff” that has fallen out of orbit, that it hasn’t hit a major city.

  5. I’ve been tracking this thing for a couple of hours.

    At time of posting 90 miles up, 17,500 mph over Peru.

  6. David, UK says:

    Matthew W says:
    January 14, 2012 at 11:51 am

    Amazing that with the “stuff” that has fallen out of orbit, that it hasn’t hit a major city.

    Honestly, it’s really not.

  7. Eric Worrall says:

    Bugger, I just painted our Southampton (England) House… :-)

  8. okie333 says:

    Matthew W.: Here is a map of USA “urban areas”… that is, all densely-populated (>1,000 people per square mile) areas with population of more than 10,000. Notice how little of the nation is taken up by urban areas, much less large cities. In the rest of the world’s land area the situation is similar, if not even less urbanized.

  9. Martin Brumby says:

    ‘A major city’ be blowed.

    The House of Commons?

    Now you’re talking. Fingers crossed……

  10. David Davidovics says:

    Too bad it failed. It sounds like it would have been a very intersting mission.

  11. Bill H says:

    IF one of the hydrazine canisters survives reentry and hits a populated area… they is going to have some explaining to do…

    its always amazed me that they do not keep a self destruct system operational on a redundant system to minimize such a problem…

  12. Jerry L. says:

    Matthew: Did you all of a sudden forget that it must have an EF rating to have enough “bad luck” to hit a major city?

  13. Luther Wu says:

    Duck and Cover

  14. cui bono says:

    “The UK is very small by comparison. The probability of it falling in such a small area is very, very low.”

    Famous last words: “They couldn’t hit an elephant at this r….”

  15. Claude Harvey says:

    “Gruntmobiles” are notoriously chunky vehicles.

  16. To give some idea of speed it’s, at time of posting, now over the northern tip of the Caspian Sea
    at 103 miles up (yes, it’s gained height) 17,465 mph.

    Shows it’s really getting knocked about up there !

  17. Gareth Phillips says:

    It’s a pity. All that wonderful technology, all those great tools. Who will join me in saluting a star mangled spanner?

  18. Otter says:

    I am reminded of a bit of sci-fi I read a decade or so ago, where a nuclear-powered satellite was due to fall to Earth (pretty sure it was an anti-nuclear writer). One of Great Britain’s newspapers (in the book) shows a picture of England, with a target ring over one of its cities. This, of course, causes all kinds of howling from the people living in said city.

    Later, the satellite comes down, and Explodes- right in the heart of said city.

    Hold onto your seats over there.

  19. It’s been nice to know you guys. Goodbye.

    …CRASH!

  20. cui bono says:

    Bill H says (January 14, 2012 at 12:24 pm)
    “its always amazed me that they do not keep a self destruct system operational on a redundant system to minimize such a problem…”

    Good idea, but if there’s an explosion in orbit, it will produce thousands of pieces of shrapnel. The Space Station is already having to duck and weave it’s way through orbit to avoid bits of junk. The Chinese created a nightmare cloud of lethal bits when they blew up a satellite with an ICBM 5 years ago.

    The only safe way of disposing of redundant space systems is to do a controlled de-orbit. This needs a rocket motor. Which, unfortunately on Phobos-Grunt, is exactly the thing that doesn’t work!

  21. Bill H says:

    simply SMASHING…. :)

  22. Bill H says:

    cui bono says:
    January 14, 2012 at 1:01 pm

    Shrapnel is one thing but bus sized derbies is quite another..

    Maybe it’s time for a smaller rocket that can attach and push it from orbit? expressive? Yes.. or we could just use our shuttles as garbage trucks… I’m sure there is a market for collecting space junk..

  23. polistra says:

    Love the painting. Straight out of a 1960’s sci-fi magazine cover.

  24. Mick J says:

    I have seen it noted elsewhere that Mars have a factory in Slough, located along the M4 corridor. So it could land on Mars after all. :)

    Talking of Slough, John Betjeman wrote a poem about the place. He may get his wish. :)
    There is a follow up poem extolling it virtues.

    “Come, friendly bombs, and fall on Slough!
    It isn’t fit for humans now,
    There isn’t grass to graze a cow.
    Swarm over, Death!”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slough_(poem)

  25. DirkH says:

    Now imagine the fun we’ll all have when they start putting PV in LEO.

  26. D. Patterson says:

    If a Space island Geode station had already been put into place as planned, the whole spacecraft could have been captured and repaired before a deestructive reentry into the atmosphere.

  27. Mike Borgelt says:

    Shows how we need launch on demand spacecraft with astronauts. Rendevous with errant spacecraft, lassoo or catch in net, organise controlled de-orbit in unpopulated area. We could call it the Space Patrol. Or maybe the US Coastguard would like another job?

  28. cui bono says:

    @Bill H

    There’s bound to be money in it Bill. Let’s give it some thought (assuming I survive the weekend here in the ‘M4 Corridor’!). Incoming! Hard hats! Duck and cover!

  29. Mike McMillan says:

    So now we’re gonna see if gravity can heat things up. :-)

  30. Ric Werme says:

    Quote without comment. Well, except for this line and maybe subsequent comments.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/space/9012242/QandA-Phobos-Grunt-crashes-to-earth.html

    The five-tonne Nasa UARS satellite hit earth in September, and was recorded by an amateur astrologer tumbling over France.

  31. MattN says:

    “anywhere between the M4 corridor and the Falkland Islands.”

    This makes no sense. The Falkland Islands are off the coast of Argentina…

  32. Ric Werme says:

    MattN says:
    January 14, 2012 at 3:58 pm

    “anywhere between the M4 corridor and the Falkland Islands.”

    This makes no sense. The Falkland Islands are off the coast of Argentina…

    A reentry estimate that’s off by +/- 25 minutes will do that.

    These are tough to predict, people do well to hit the orbit number a day in advance.

    Hmm, the Falklands are just south of 51° South Latitude, so they are in the danger area, at least I think that’s the limit.

  33. EO Peter says:

    No need to panic, the probability it fall on inhabited location are so minuscule, practically inexistant!
    In fact, it is as probable as a space debris falling near Cosmonaut Street…

  34. Katabasis says:

    Ric I don’t understand your explanation at all.

    The M4 corridor and the Falkland Islands are in separate hemispheres.

  35. Carla says:

    Russia hints at foul play in its space failures
    By Str | AFP – Tue, Jan 10, 2012
    The head of Russia’s beleaguered space programme hinted on Tuesday that foreign powers may be behind the string of failures that struck his agency in the past year.

    Roskosmos chief Vladimir Popovkin told the Izvestia daily he could not understand why several launches went awry at precisely the moment the spacecraft were travelling through areas invisible to Russian radar.
    ..
    One of Russia’s most high-profile recent failures involved the November launch of a Mars probe called Phobos-Grunt that got stuck in a low Earth orbit and whose fragments are now expected to crash back down on Sunday.
    ..
    Popovkin was named the head of Russia’s space agency in April after its previous chief was sacked in the wake of an embarrassing loss of three navigation satellites during launch.

    Yet the problems only multiplied under his watch as Russia lost several more satellites and also saw its Progress cargo ship experience its first-ever failure on a mission to the International Space Station.

    The Mars mission setback was followed last month by the loss of the Meridian communications satellite. Its fragments crashed into the Novosibirsk region of central Siberia and hit a house ironically located on Cosmonaut Street No injuries were reported but the 50-centimetre (20-inch) fragment blew a hole in the home’s roof.
    ..
    http://uk.news.yahoo.com/russia-hints-foul-play-space-failures-083817291.html

    Russians planned on scooping up some Phobos Grunt (dirt) and “”RETURNING””………..How many stages in yur rockettes does that require. Group W thinks that the Russians were that comet Lovejoy that went a sun diving and came back………………out??? Just a zig zagging its way through the suns atmosphere at 87,000 miles 120,000 kilometers above the solar surface. wow I mean WOW……………

    ..

  36. D. Patterson says:

    The breakup and debris trail crosses all hemispheres.

  37. Arizona CJ says:

    The hydrazine issue (and the other fuel is nitrogen tetroxide, also nasty) is a major one. If it’s liquid in aluminum tanks, it shouldn’t reach the ground. But… do we know the tanks are aluminum? Nope… only on Russia’s say-so, and they have a long history of being rather creative with the truth when things go wrong (such as Mars 96 coming down in Peru, and they claimed it was in the pacific, plutonium and all). The Russians are fond of titanium tanks, and nitrogen tetroxide corrodes aluminum unless totally anhydrous. The other issue is the fuel may have frozen by now, in which case it may very well reach the ground.

    The orbital inclination is about 51 degrees, and perigee is over the southern hemisphere at about 41S, so we see it’s altitude increasing and then decreasing during it’s 87 minute orbits.

    Now, for a climate-related observation: It’s VERY low; the only reason it’s still up there at all is the earth’s thermosphere is rather contracted at the moment, due to diminished solar activity.

  38. Carla says:

    This image taken Jan 1st, of Phobos Grunt doesn’t look like 13.5 tonnes or even appear like it may have 11 tonnes of fuel left.
    http://legault.perso.sfr.fr/phobos-grunt.html

    Check out comet Lovejoy going into the solar atmosphere, tail accelerating out the top of the frame brightly and little comet lovejoy coming back out the bottom right in this video.
    http://sungrazer.nrl.navy.mil/images/lovejoy/lovejoy_20111215b_cor1.mov

    From the sungrazers website, http://sungrazer.nrl.navy.mil/index.php?p=news/birthday_comet#bottom

  39. Eduardo Ferreyra says:

    “If you look at the Earth from space, most of it is covered by water.”

    And if you don’t look it is still almost covered with water.

    And the real name of the so called Falklands Islands is Islas Malvinas, as they were named “Malouines” by French whalers from Saint Malo in the 15th Century…

  40. MattN says:

    Ric, there is at least 5000 miles between the Falklands and the M4 corridor…

  41. Mac the Knife says:

    Gareth Phillips says:
    January 14, 2012 at 12:45 pm
    “It’s a pity. All that wonderful technology, all those great tools. Who will join me in saluting a star mangled spanner?”

    I will, Gareth!
    All across the central and south Atlantic, the natives will be singing “Jose, Can you see?”

  42. RichyRoo says:

    @Katabasis: Yes, that is how inexact the prediction is, they cant even pick which hemisphere it will land it. Do you get that?

  43. John Brookes says:

    And they don’t know where, because picking the precise time that it will “get caught” by the atmosphere is impossible.

  44. u.k.(us) says:

    Umm,
    it’s settled then ?

  45. J.H. says:

    Pity it malfunctioned, it would have been an interesting space mission to follow. Poor ol’ Russians, they don’t have a lot of luck with missions to Mars. They’ll have to get a witch doctor in and break that hoodoo. ;-)

  46. E.M.Smith says:

    MarkW says: January 14, 2012 at 11:30 am

    Duck

    Chicken! ;-)

    And don’t say I’m being a turkey …

    8-)

  47. TedK says:

    I can think of a building in East Anglia where they can use a knock on the noggin to knock some sense into them.

  48. Nick Shaw says:

    Eduardo Ferreyra says: the real name of the so called Falklands Islands is Islas Malvinas.

    Sorry, Eduardo, the real name is the Falklands. At least until the Argentines take it back but, I wouldn’t hold my breath. ;-)

  49. Mark says:

    LearDog says:
    one has to keep in mind that specific components of this craft were DESIGNED to survive re-entry into the atmosphere…

    Why would they want to do that? The only atmosphere the designers could have considered entering would be that of Mars. Which is considerably less dense than that of Earth.

  50. Arizona CJ says:

    The orbit is at a 51 degree angle to the equator, which is why a twenty minute or so change in reentry time could put it over the UK instead of the Falklands on that particular orbital track.

    Here’s a link to the Heavens Above page that updates with the latest orbital elements (every few hours), showing the current orbit, position, apogee, perigee, etc. Currently, it’s at 136 km (84 miles) for the perigee, 157 km (97 miles) for apogee.
    http://heavens-above.com/orbit.aspx?satid=37872&lat=0&lng=0&loc=Unspecified&alt=0&tz=CET

    This is, so far as I can tell, absolutely unprecedented in the space age; the thermosphere must be heavily contracted for this to be possible. (it’s in the thermosphere, but the density of the thermosphere varies with solar activity. If, as some think, we’re nearing solar max for the current cycle, one would expect the thermosphere to be far denser at lower orbital altitudes than it is. In other words, we’re seeing proof that this solar cycle is a low one.

    Finally, regarding the Falklands; I’ve been there, and love the place. Wonderful people, who are still living with active minefields and other after-effects of the Argentina’s attempted conquest, plus the fear that they will be attacked again.

    I got a chuckle from the post claiming that the old Spanish name is the correct one, due to what the French called the islands in the 15th century. That was risible on so many levels. First off, the 15th century means 1400-1499, and the first voyage of Columbus was in 1492. So, what did the French call the Falklands in the 15th century? Nothing, as they were unseen and undiscovered until the 16th century.

    Second point; since when does the 15th or 16th century name for a place dictate the correct name? By that logic, most of our maps for everywhere are wrong, and to name one example, Argentina is the wrong name for that particular country. So, that basis for saying the Spanish name is the correct one for the Falklands is just as valid as the rest of the Argentine “claim” to the islands: pathetic and utter bunk, with no basis in either logic or history.

  51. observa says:

    If it hits the Falklands then it’s the Malvinas OK?

  52. Gareth Phillips says:

    Eduardo Ferreyra says:
    January 14, 2012 at 6:22 pm

    And the real name of the so called Falklands Islands is Islas Malvinas, as they were named “Malouines” by French whalers from Saint Malo in the 15th Century…

    Garethmanmresponds
    Living in a country used a as unit of measurement we have one useful rule in deciding what a countries name is. And that is, what do the residents of the country call it? If they call it Malouines or Falklands or Las Malvinas that is their choice and we should all respect that. By the way Wales is also generally known as Cymru by Welsh speakers, It is never known as England. Perhaps we will all have a view of this descending spacecraft which may give us a bit of insight that we are all living on the same planet and are part of one human community.

  53. Myhrr says:

    http://eightiesclub.tripod.com/id319.htm

    In 1982 two nations went to war over the ownership of an archipelago 300 miles from the southernmost tip of South America — and the United States was caught in the middle. The Falklands — two main islands and 200 islets with a total land area the size of Connecticut — had been claimed for Britain in 1594 by Sir Richard Hawkins, and named in 1690 for the First Lord of the Admiralty. But the Spanish insisted that the 1492 Papal Line of Demarcation gave the islands to them, and when Argentina declared its independence from Spain in 1816 it claimed sovereignty over the islands, which Argentines called Las Malvinas. In 1833 the British colonized the uninhabited islands; the Royal Falklands Island Company transplanted Cheviot and Southdown sheep as well as Irish, Scottish and Welsh descendants of the 1,800 Falklanders who lived on the islands in 1982. For a century and a half Argentina protested. When the three-man military junta led by Leopoldo Galtieri launched a surprise attack on the islands, overpowering a small garrison of Royal Marines, the British public clamored for action, with a clear majority favoring the recapture of the Falklands by force.

    And all because Spain and Portugal had divided the world up between them… :)

    Treaty of Tordesillas http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty_of_Tordesillas

    The Treaty of Tordesillas was intended to resolve the dispute that had been created following the return of Christopher Columbus. In 1481, the papal bull Æterni regis had granted all land south of the Canary Islands to Portugal. On 4 May 1493 the Spanish-born Pope Alexander VI decreed in the bull Inter caetera that all lands west and south of a pole-to-pole line 100 leagues west and south of any of the islands of the Azores or the Cape Verde Islands should belong to Spain, although territory under Christian rule as of Christmas 1492 would remain untouched. The bull did not mention Portugal or its lands, so Portugal couldn’t claim newly discovered lands even if they were east of the line. Another bull, Dudum siquidem, entitled Extension of the Apostolic Grant and Donation of the Indies and dated 25 September 1493, gave all mainlands and islands then belonging to India to Spain, even if east of the line. The Portuguese King John II was not pleased with that arrangement, feeling that it gave him far too little land — it prevented him from possessing India, his near term goal (as of 1493, Portuguese explorers had only reached the east coast of Africa). He opened negotiations with King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain to move the line to the west and allow him to claim newly discovered lands east of the line. The treaty effectively countered the bulls of Alexander VI and was sanctioned by Pope Julius II via the bull Ea quae of 24 January 1506.[6] Even though the treaty was negotiated without consulting the Pope, a few sources call the resulting line the Papal Line of Demarcation.[7]

    Argentinia went to war over the islands as a distraction from their own domestic problems, as did Maggie when she retaliated as a distraction for her own, she won the next election on the strength of it.

    How the Spanish claimed control:

    Columbus (called by the Spaniards Cristobal Colon, probably born at Genoa between 1446 and 1451, his father’s name was Colombo, ….

    ..This confirmed his belief that land lay to the westward of Europe – and, not doubting the world was round, thinking he could reach East India, submitted to the King of Portugal, in 1443, a proposal that he should be given command of an expedition across the Atlantic to prove the truth of his beliefs. It was the opinion of King John the Second’s advisors that “it did not become such greatness to engage in an enterprise of this kind on such weak grounds”. The Portuguese King secretly sent a vessel westward, the sailors returned, too afraid of the unknown to venture far.

    Columbus, disgusted by the Royal duplicity, left for Spain, where, from 1485 to 1492, he sought to secure the support of King Ferdinand of Aragon and Queen Isabella of Castile – who were similarly advised. He then sought, in vain, to interest in his scheme the Kings of France and England, …

    read on here for the personalities in the drama of the claims and counterclaims behind the Papal Line of Demarcation: http://www.falmouth.packet.archives.dial.pipex.com/id143.htm

  54. Katabasis says:

    “@Katabasis: Yes, that is how inexact the prediction is, they cant even pick which hemisphere it will land in. Do you get that?”

    – I guess it’s me being mystified (yet again) at the sloppy nature of journalism in this case. Mentioning both the M4 corridor and the Falklands seems like an immensely crappy attempt to tie it in primarily to the UK despite the fact that the potential area it could fall into is huge and the landmasses in question very small in relation.

    – It’s also amusing given how many fewer factors there must be at work here in projecting its final trajectory than there are for predicting the climate that the potential range of outcomes is so huge and uncertain.

  55. At http://www.zarya.info/Diaries/Misc/PhobosGrunt3.php and http://www.zarya.info/Diaries/Misc/PhobosGrunt4.php estimates made today have Phobos-Grunt reeentering around 18-19 hrs. UTC on its 1097 orbit.

  56. M.A.Vukcevic says:

    Mark says: January 15, 2012 at 12:45 am
    Why would they want to do that? The only atmosphere the designers could have considered entering would be that of Mars. Which is considerably less dense than that of Earth.
    It was suppose to land on Mars’ satellite Phobos (no atmosphere), pick up some samples and return those to the Earth, hence important to survive the Earth’s atmosphere re-entry.

  57. Dale Thompson says:

    At least the albedo has increased thanks to the orbiters. I guess that there will be some global warming to come from this one falling down?

  58. Ric Werme says:

    I haven’t checked the zarya,info pages, look good, but here’s a newsy story.

    http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/russian-space-probe-crash-earth-hours-15364707#.TxLWvW9SQsI

    Roscosmos said the unmanned Phobos-Ground will crash between 1641 and 2105 GMT (11:41 a.m. and 4:05 p.m. EST). It could crash anywhere along the route of its next few orbits, which would include Europe, southeast Asia, Australia and South America. The U.S., Canada and much of Russia are outside the risk zone.

    At 13.5 metric tons (14.9 tons), the Phobos-Ground is one of the heaviest pieces of space junk ever to fall on Earth, and one of the most toxic too. The bulk of its weight is a load of 11 metric tons (12 tons) of highly toxic rocket fuel intended for the long journey to the Martian moon of Phobos. It has been left unused as the probe got stuck in orbit around Earth shortly after its Nov. 9 launch.

    Roscosmos predicts that only between 20 and 30 fragments of the Phobos probe with a total weight of up to 200 kilograms (440 pounds) will survive the re-entry and plummet to Earth. It said all of the fuel will burn up entirely in the atmosphere.

    The probe’s fuel tanks are made of aluminum alloy and should melt early on re-entry, backing up the official assurances. If the fuel indeed burns on re-entry, the probe’s dry weight of 2.5 metric tons (2.75 tons) puts it firmly in the league of the ordinary.

  59. Ric Werme says:

    Katabasis says:
    January 14, 2012 at 5:15 pm

    Ric I don’t understand your explanation at all.

    The M4 corridor and the Falkland Islands are in separate hemispheres.

    Except for the degenerate cases of an equatorial orbit and especially geosynchronous orbit, satellites visit both hemispheres on each orbit. The orbital plane has to go through the center of the Earth.

    MattN says:
    January 14, 2012 at 6:44 pm

    Ric, there is at least 5000 miles between the Falklands and the M4 corridor…

    More than that, I should think. 100 degrees of latitude, so 6000 nautical miles, add to that the longitude difference, it’s a ways.

    I keep forgetting what Low Earth orbital speed is, but remember the circumference of Earth is about 24,000 miles and the period is 90 minutes, so 18,000 statute mph. If the reentry prediction time has a +/- 30 minute error, that gives a 60 minute window, so reentry will be anywhere along an 18,000 mile path.

    Both of you (and anyone else), check out http://www.zarya.info/images/PhobosGruntReentry3.jpg – it will likely change frequently, but it’s a good map now showing that if it goes over the Falklands, it will take several orbits before it goes over England. I thought that might be the case, but didn’t have time for more than a top of the head response. So it appears the M4 to Falklands estimate was really just to give the range of latitudes where the satellite could fall in the UK and absolutely nothing to do with a specific prediction.

  60. Charlie says:

    In my head I’ve been singing ‘ Decay of Phobos Grunt’ to the tune of ‘the Days of Pearly Spencer’, although it is missing one syllable.

  61. John R T says:

    Ric Werme says:
    January 14, 2012 at 3:33 pm
    Quote “.. maybe subsequent comments. snip [from]… an amateur astrologer tumbling over France:” ‘200km …Midland, Texas,…French Falklands, discovered in some other century with Roman numerals.’ Amateur astrologer tumbling! New candidate for Olympic Games.

    Thank You, Ric: you started my day with nose-blown cereal and milk!

    John R T

  62. Cliffhild says:

    Matthew W says:
    January 14, 2012 at 11:51 am
    Amazing that with the “stuff” that has fallen out of orbit, that it hasn’t hit a major city

    —-I sincerely hope you said that with your fingers firmly crossed and hanging on to the nearest bit of wood, Matthew W! Don’t tempt the gods, it’s too dangerous!

  63. Katabasis says:

    The “Mars Monster” strikes again!

  64. Chuck L says:

    It is so very reassuring that the Obama Administration has made the United States dependent on Russia for sending our astronauts into space. (Sarc)

  65. Interested readers might like to monitor the SeeSat Mail List Archives at http://satobs.org/seesat/Jan-2012/index.html (mantained by Ted Molczan).
    The Compilation of Phobos-Grunt Decay Estimates v12 is at http://satobs.org/seesat/Jan-2012/0179.html (as of 2012 Jan 15 12:52 UTC).
    Latest estimate by Ted Molczan: 2012 Jan 15 20:07 UTC, uncertainty 2.15 hrs.

  66. Failure in Russian high tech workmanship? Who would ever believe it.

  67. Ric Werme says:

    John R T says:
    January 15, 2012 at 6:30 am

    Amateur astrologer tumbling! New candidate for Olympic Games.

    Oh good, you picked up on the tumbling abiguity.

    When you finish your coffee, check out my http://wermenh.com/deimos.html about the Olympic Leaps on Deimos at the annual Martian Festival. Sorry, no gymnastics, it’s all track and field. Thanks for the segue!

  68. Olen says:

    It is headed for the Falklands, I suspect Argentina.

  69. The Ghost Of Big Jim Cooley says:

    It’s the ‘Falklands’ – and it ALWAYS will be. We spilt blood over those islands and no one here is going to forget it. As long as the islanders want to be protected by the Britain then so be it. Argentina has no claim to the islands at all, not even a little bit. The Falklands were inhabited by British people before ‘Argentina’ existed as an idependent nation! If you take the bizarre view that any island close to a country belongs to THAT country then we start entering a fantasy world, like Hawaii belonging to Mexico, not the US, and Corsica belonging to Italy, not France, amongst MANY others. The Falklands are 500 kilometres away from Argentina, so if we start down this silly route then Japan belongs to South Korea and Russia, Ireland belongs to Britain, Iceland belongs to Greenland, and New Zealand belongs to Australia. Small islands have a right to exist in peace without being threatened by a country that cannot even get its own affairs in order.

  70. wermet says:

    MattN says: January 14, 2012 at 3:58 pm

    “anywhere between the M4 corridor and the Falkland Islands.”
    This makes no sense. The Falkland Islands are off the coast of Argentina…

    This is a correct statement. The space agencies cannot determine when the spacecraft will reenter the atmosphere. Now just to a small degree, but to a large degree. They will be lucky to be able to determine to within 2500 miles the impact point. In fact, they might not even get the actual orbit of reentry correct. And this is using our “established and settled science” of orbital mechanics!

    Not to denigrate the orbital mechanics scientists and engineers, it’s just that small variations in the density of the upper atmosphere during reentry, can have major effects to the trajectory of an uncontrolled deorbiting object that is subject to an uncontrolled breakup/disintegration with possible uncontrolled explosions. As you can tell, there are a lot of unconstrained variables to account for in this “simple” deorbiting problem.

  71. Ben Hern says:

    Plenty of posts here rubbishing Russian workmanship, but it’s hardly a uniquely Russian trait to have this sort of failure. Remind me why Skylab had a bit of foil lashed up on it’s back, why Columbia put on a tragic shooting star demonstration, how about the mars rover that’s gotten bogged.
    There is a reason why we all sarcastically remark that simple tasks are ‘not rocket science’, credit where it’s due, at least they’re having a go.
    What has ESA attempted lately?

    I figured it wouldn’t be long before some jumped up git with a cahone insecurity would start harping about the Falklands, simple question; when will you pitiful little twats give it up?
    The Falklands never belonged to Argentina; the River Plate Colonies breifly established a penal colony on the Falkalnds, some time after the British had claimed the islands. Not that even that matters; possession is 9/10ths of the law and the Falkland Islands have been part of Great Britain for well over a century. Why not put it to a referendum in the Falklands? Who do you wish to oversea your governance?
    1: The Kingdm of Great Britain (who all of the free world have used a model for governance, justice and human rights – even if old Blighty has recently lost the plot over gullible warming ),
    2: No one, it’s time for Independence, or,
    13: A half arsed shitpot 3rd world dump in receivership; whose only claims to fame are the Guerra Sucia’s 13,000 dissappeared and a pitiful attempt to invade a relatively close, more or less undefended British territory but subsequently being shown the door and escorted from the premises by a numerically inferior force of professional soldiers without enough ammunition.
    No brainer really; so take your indignant whining and jam it. The Falklands are the Falklands and will be as long as the Kelpers are happy with the name and completely regardless of sad, whining latin speaking gits with no right to an opinion on the matter.

  72. “Phobos-Grunt fragments have crashed down in the Pacific Ocean,” Russia’s Defense Ministry official Alexei Zolotukhin told RIA Novosti, adding that the fragments fell in 1,250 kilometers to the west of the island of Wellington.

    The spacecraft fell at about 21:45 on Sunday Moscow time [17:45 GMT].

    From http://en.rian.ru/world/20120115/170769403.html

  73. M.A.Vukcevic says:

    It’s down in the Pacific

  74. cui bono says:

    Phew! Southern UK safe. It fell to Earth near New Zealand. Looking at a globe, that was one prediction that couldn’t have been more wrong!

    Now for all the other wrong predictions…

  75. Katabasis says:

    Thanks for the reply Ric.

  76. Ric Werme says:

    Phew! Southern UK safe. It fell to Earth near New Zealand. Looking at a globe, that was one prediction that couldn’t have been more wrong!

    From the map I saw, it landed closer to the Falklands than New Zealand. The Falklands is “southern UK,” right? :-)

  77. MarkG says:

    “Plenty of posts here rubbishing Russian workmanship, but it’s hardly a uniquely Russian trait to have this sort of failure.”

    From what I’ve read, there were major management problems with this project, up to and including rewiring a fully-fuelled spacecraft and installing new flight controller software on the launch pad due to catrastrophic bugs in the installed version. To me it looks like they cut corners to hit this launch window and that’s why it failed. See, for example:

    http://www.russianspaceweb.com/phobos_grunt_2011.html

    It’s a shame it failed, because it would have been a cool mission. But from reading that and similar articles I’d have been surprised if it worked.

  78. Arizona CJ says:

    Okay, I’m seeing claims from Roscosmos, etc, that it reentered over the pacific, west of Chile, and that claim has been warped by the press to be that that’s where the debris came down.

    One big thing they seem to be missing; entry is NOT the spot above where the debris will come down. If it hit entry interface 700 miles off Chile, then my guess for where the debris ended up is somewhere in South America.

    Also, take Russian claims with a grain of salt. They lied when Mars 96 came down in Peru with a large load of plutonium, saying it came down in the pacific.

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