Phobos Grunt Spacecraft to Hit Earth in January

Russia’s Mars probe Phobos-Grunt, currently stuck in orbit, will be falling back on Earth’s atmosphere. According to space junk expert Heiner Klinkrad current re-entry forecasts have the Phobos-Grunt spacecraft falling January 14 or 15, plus or minus five days. Klinkrad, head of the space debris office at the European Space Agency’s space operations center in Darmstadt, Germany, said Russian scientists are hard at work assessing the re-entry survivability of Phobos-Grunt, a spacecraft that tips the scale at nearly 14 tons. They assume that about 20 to 30 fragments will reach ground with an overall mass of less than 200 kilograms, some 400 pounds of leftover hardware. 

Phobos-Grunt  launched  into  space  November  8,  but  failed    to   transfer    to   an interplanetary  trajectory. Its mission was to land on Phobos, one of two moons circling the Red Planet, snare samples and rocket them back to Earth in 2014. Attached to Phobos-Grunt is China’s Mars orbiter, Yinghou 1, which is now also destined for a destructive re-entry next month.