The Curiosity rover, which is designed to explore Mars, has found an ancient oasis on Mars. Researchers working with the Curiosity rover have found salt-enriched…
Satellite sleuth Thierry Legault captured the impressive video of the Phobos-Grunt Mars probe January 1 from the Calern Plateau observatory above Nice in the French Riviera. Russia’s Federal Space Agency launched the Phobos-Grunt probe in November, only to see it fail to depart for Mars shortly after reaching Earth orbit. It has been stranded in orbit ever since. Legault’s observation spurred Ted Molczan of Toronto, a leader in the amateur satellite-spotting network, to study the spacecraft‘s orientation. According to Molczan the orientation revealed in Thierry Legault’s video, propulsion module leading, solar arrays trailing, may possibly be explained by analogy with the shuttlecock used in the sport of badminton.
Shuttlecocks are roughly conical, consisting of a heavy mass at the tip (called the cork) and trailing feathers forming the cone. This configuration results in highly stable flight through the air, with the heavy end leading. Phobos-Grunt launched into space early November 9 (November 8 in the United States) and was intended to land on Phobos, one of two moons circling Mars. The spacecraft was designed to snare samples of Phobos‘ surface and rocket the specimens back to Earth in 2014. But the Mars probe failed to boost itself out of Earth orbit on an interplanetary trajectory. Russian engineers have been unable to re-establish control of or contact with the spacecraft. There is a convergence of tracking predictions that places Phobos-Grunt‘s uncontrolled fall into Earth’s atmosphere in the January 15-16 time period.
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