Failed Mars probe to fall to Earth

Dec. 9, 2011 at 3:01 PM

MOSCOW, Dec. 9 (UPI) -- A Russian spacecraft that failed to head for Mars after its November launch will fall back to Earth Jan. 9, experts said.

The Phobos-Grunt mission, launched Nov. 9, was supposed to return rock and soil samples from the martian moon Phobos but has been stuck in a so-called support orbit since its thrusters failed to put it on course for the Red Planet, RIA Novosti reported Friday.

The probe will break up during re-entry and none of the fragments is likely to reach Earth, said Vladimir Popovkin, head of Russia's Federal Space Agency Roscosmos.

The spacecraft's 7.5 tons of fuel are stored in aluminum tanks that are expected to explode upon re-entry.

Experts at NASA said Russia has failed in all 17 of its attempts to send study missions to Mars since 1960.

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