The Phobos-Grunt («Фобос-Грунт») probe was launched on 8/11 at 20:16 GMT and it made it into Earth orbit … but the thrusters that were to send it onto a Mars trajectory failed to fire for as yet-unknown reasons – either due to a software or hardware malfunction – so it is currently stuck in orbit. There are 2 weeks to find a solution, then the launch window closes. If it is a hardware failure the mission is over; if it is software-related the technicians might be able to radio up corrective commands. The mission failure will be a dismal blow to the Russian unmanned space program, of which this is the first probe to be sent up in over 15 years; there likely won’t be another as Russia does not have the will or funding for such programs that the USSR era did.
Thursday, 3 November 2011
Progress M-13M/45 launched on 30/10 and docked to the Pirs module of the ISS on 2/11 with no anomalies, a great relief to everyone! The crew will get some iPads (lucky them!). (NASASpaceflight.com: “Progress successfully docks to ISS; stage set for return of manned Soyuz flight”.) The next crew to launch in November will be ISS-29/30.
The Mars-500 experiment ends this week, 4 November! The crew seem to have survived with their sanity intact :-).
The Phobos-Grunt probe is set to launch next week, 8 or 9 November, if there are no delays – the launch window is from 5-25 November, otherwise there are another 2 years or so until the next Mars launch opportunity. It has what appears to be an official website.
I decided not to buy the Spaceflight issues mentioned last entry as they were speculative only, and the magazine too expensive.