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Russian spacecraft nears Earth fall time

MOSCOW, Jan. 13 (UPI) -- Russia's troubled Phobos Grunt spacecraft is expected to fall back to Earth sometime between Saturday night and Monday morning, authorities said.

Researchers at the U.S. Strategic Command said the failed Mars mission probe would hit the Earth's atmosphere between 9:39 p.m. EST Saturday and 2:39 a.m. EST Monday, RIA Novosti reported.

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Phobos Grunt, Russia's most ambitious planetary mission in decades, was launched on Nov. 9 and intended to study the Martian moon Phobos but remained in Earth orbit when an engine malfunction failed to send it on its way to the Red Planet.

Russia's Roscosmos space agency said as many as 30 pieces of debris from the spacecraft totaling about 440 pounds would hit Earth, probably in the Atlantic Ocean, while the spacecraft's toxic fuel would burn in the atmosphere at a height of about 60 miles.

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