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It is looking increasingly grim for Russia's Mars mission Phobos-Grunt, which has been stuck circling the Earth since its launch in early November.
Apart from some brief radio contact with the wayward probe just over a week ago, there has been total silence from the spacecraft.
The European Space Agency announced on Friday that it was now ceasing any further attempts to get a signal. Russian engineers though are expected to keep trying to the last.
"We will stay available for our Russian colleagues in case there is any sign or glimpse of hope from their side," said Dr Manfred Warhaut from Esa's European Space Operations Centre (Esoc) in Darmstadt, Germany.
It was Esa's 15m antenna in Perth, Australia, that first managed to get a response from Phobos-Grunt on 22 and 23 November (GMT). That success was quickly followed by Russian ground controllers using a 0.5m dish in Baikonur, Kazakhstan.
But since then, the probe has not reacted to any commands.
Phobos-Grunt is currently moving in an orbit with an altitude that varies between 200km (perigee) and 340km (apogee).
This orbit is slowly decaying. If engineers cannot re-establish contact and control, the 13-tonne spacecraft will eventually fall back to Earth.
The game-plan of late has been to try to stabilise the orbit by getting commands into the probe that would activate its thrusters and raise it higher in the sky. Getting Phobos-Grunt into a safe "parking orbit" would buy engineers more time to consider their options.
The opportunity to go to Mars, however, has been lost. The changing alignment of the planets now makes the distance to Mars too big to cross.
Originally posted by 1AnunnakiBastard
What boils my blood is that the Russians act as if they owe NO explanations to the world. THEY put that 13 ton junk in orbit, THEY failed in make it work, THEY are failing in recover it and THEY keep a darned silence. Though, at first sight this behavior may look like simple arrogance, but as far as that spacecraft is a toxic bomb carrying a container with engineered bacteria, including surrogates or Anthrax, the hypothesis of a biologic warfare with the proper plausible deniability, seems to be very tempting.
Originally posted by samkent
They told us all we need to know about PG.