Russia Says Spacecraft May Crash Into Indian Ocean
Russia is hoping a failed space probe will fall into the Indian Ocean, far away from any populated areas, but still has no guarantee of the crash site.
Space agency Roscosmos said Wednesday that the midpoint in a three day window when Phobos-Ground’s debris is expected to fall is at 0918 GMT Sunday, when the probe will be above the ocean, about 1,700 kilometers (some 1,050 miles) west of Jakarta.
It added that the forecast will be clarified as the probe’s orbit draws closer to Earth.
The agency has predicted the debris could fall between Saturday and Monday anywhere along a broad swath between 51.4 degrees north to 51.4 degrees south that covers the bulk of the land surface. That spares most of Russia’s ground territory, along with Scandinavia and a large part of Canada.
The $170-million probe was to explore one of Mars’ two moons, Phobos, but became stranded while orbiting Earth after its Nov. 9 launch. Engineers in Russia and the European Space Agency have tried but failed to propel the spacecraft toward its target.
Phobos-Ground weighs 13.2 metric tons (14.6 tons), which includes 11 metric tons (12 tons) of highly toxic fuel. Experts had warned that if the fuel has frozen, it could survive re-entry through the atmosphere and pose a serious threat if it falls over populated areas.
Roscosmos has insisted that it is sure that all the fuel will burn on re-entry some 100 kilometers (330,000 feet) above the ground and pose no danger.
It said that a tiny quantity of Cobalt-57, a radioactive metal contained in one of the craft’s instruments, will not pose the threat of radioactive contamination.