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Mars probe hopes dealt blow

(Global Times)

08:50, November 11, 2011

Prospects for China's first interplanetary probe and Russia's first Mars mission since 1996 were dealt blow after initial attempts to reset the Russian Mars probe Phobos-Grunt failed.

Over the course of the previous day, ground control experts made several attempts to establish communication with the Phobos-Grunt without success. The likelihood of establishing a connection with the probe has now decreased, the Interfax News Agency reported.

The Phobos-Grunt blasted off successfully at 4:16 pm Wednesday from the Baikonur launch pad in Ukraine on a Zenit-2SB rocket but did not manage to leave its Earth orbit as planned. Hitching a ride is China's first Mars probe, the tiny 115-kilogram Yinghuo-1.

The two probes will probably fall back to Earth within days or weeks, according to the New York Times.

The Phobos-Grunt is now flying along an orbit that at its lowest point is just 207.6 kilometers above the Earth. The atmosphere, though thin at that altitude, will create enough drag to cause the spacecraft to fall to Earth, but it is hard to predict when and where the probe will fall, the paper reported.

About two-thirds of the spacecraft's weight is made up of corrosive and toxic fuel, a source at the Kazakhstan launching center told the news agency Ria Novosti.

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