Russia`s stranded Mars probe gives `first sign of life`

Last Updated: Wednesday, November 23, 2011 - 18:10

Paris: Russia`s Phobos-Grunt spacecraft, which has been stranded in orbit since launch on November 8, has sent "a first sign of life" to a tracking station in
western Australia, the European Space Agency (ESA) said today.

Contact with the probe was made at 0155 IST at an ESA
ground station in Perth, the agency said on its website.

"ESA teams are working closely with engineers in Russia to
determine how best to maintain communication with the
spacecraft," it said.

A spokesman at European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in
Darmstadt, Germany, told a news agency: "We sent an instruction to (the
probe) to switch on its transmitter and the probe sent us
telemetric data.

"However, we do not have all the details and we are not
very sure of what we received. It`s a first sign of life," he
said.

The probe is in a "very low, very unfavourable orbit
(that) is difficult to identify accurately," the spokesman
added.

The task is being complicated by very narrow windows, "of
between five and 10 minutes," for communication, he explained.

The five-billion-ruble (USD 165-million) mission is one of
the most ambitious in the history of Martian exploration.

It is designed to travel to the Martian moon of Phobos,
scoop up soil and return the sample to Earth by 2014.

But mission control lost radio contact with the craft
hours after launch, leaving engineers without telemetry data
to figure out where it was.

Yesterday, Russia`s space agency had said it saw "little
chance" of saving the 13.5-tonne vessel.

In Moscow, the Russian space agency Roskosmos confirmed
the report.

It said the Perth station had received a radio signal from
Phobos-Grunt during a scheduled monitoring period and European
and Russian were "appraising the situation."

PTI



First Published: Wednesday, November 23, 2011 - 18:10

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