Phobos-Grunt Not Communicating; Russian President Seeks Punishment of Responsible Parties

Phobos-Grunt Not Communicating; Russian President Seeks Punishment of Responsible Parties reports that the European Space Agency’s (ESA’s) most recent efforts (November 25 Eastern Standard Time, November 26 in Australia) to communicate with Russia’s Phobos-Grunt spacecraft were not successful.  ESA’s space operations website has not yet been updated with those results. 

Using its ground station in Perth, Australia, ESA was able to communicate with the spacecraft twice earlier in the week, but that success has not been repeated.  Phobos-Grunt was launched on a Zenit rocket plus a Fregat upper stage on November 8.  The Zenit appears to have worked perfectly, but the Fregat did not fire to place the spacecraft onto its Mars trajectory and the spacecraft remains stranded in Earth orbit.  The cause is not known.

Reuters quotes Russian President Dmitry Medvedev as saying that he believes those responsible for recent space program failures, like Phobos-Grunt, should be punished.  The Reuters quote is as follows: 

“‘Recent failures are a strong blow to our competitiveness. It does not mean that something fatal has happened, it means that we need to carry out a detailed review and punish those guilty, Medvedev told reporters in televised comments.

‘I am not suggesting putting them up against the wall like under Josef Vissarionovich (Stalin), but seriously punish either financially or, if the fault is obvious, it could be a disciplinary or even criminal punishment,’ he said.”

ESA needs to use its Perth ground station for its own spacecraft for the next couple of days as it works through a backlog of tasks that were set aside.  It then plans to resume attempts to contact Phobos-Grunt.  ESA and Russia have cooperated together on Mars missions for many years.  Russia launched ESA’s Mars Express probe, which successfully entered orbit around Mars in 2003.

Editor’s note:  Thanks to Jeff Foust for bringing the Reuters article to our attention via Twitter.

User Comments has the right (but not the obligation) to monitor the comments and to remove any materials it deems inappropriate.  We do not post comments that include links to other websites since we have no control over that content nor can we verify the security of such links.