Phobos Grunt Letter

From: Derek C Breit (
Date: Fri Dec 09 2011 - 17:47:45 UTC

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    > To the participants of the Phobos-Soil Project To the participants of 
    > the Phobos-Soil spacecraft tracking
    > December 8, 2011
    > Dear Colleagues,
    > As you may already know, the launch of the Phobos-Soil spacecraft was 
    > a failure. On November 8, 2011 the spacecraft was put into the near 
    > Earth orbit, however, the booster did not turn on, and, therefore, the 
    > spacecraft did not manage to change this initial orbit and transfer to 
    > the interplanetary trajectory. The reason of this failure has not been 
    > determined yet.
    > Immediately after this unpredictable event all forces of the mission 
    > control team were concentrated in order to attempt to establish 
    > communication with the spacecraft. Several foreign organizations, in 
    > particular, ESOC-ESA, DSN-JPL-NASA, NORAD-STRATCOM, numerous amateur 
    > observers tracked the spacecraft to establish communication with it 
    > and determine parameters of the orbit, its orientation and attitude.
    > However, despite people being at work 24 / 7 since the launch, all 
    > these attempts have not yield any satisfactory results. We are 
    > grateful to our foreign colleagues, who provided us with every list of 
    > information about the spacecraft which was crucial at the time.
    > Currently, the spacecraft is rotating at the near Earth orbit, 
    > lowering every day, and we expect that it is to entry the atmosphere 
    > in several weeks. Lavochkin Association specialists will continue 
    > their attempts to establish connection with the spacecraft and send 
    > commands until the very end of its existence. We are working 
    > nevertheless on the issue of re-entry and probability of where and 
    > which fragments may hit the ground (if any). There is a sensitive 
    > matter that one of the scientific instruments (Messbauer spectrometer) 
    > contains radioactive material Co-57. However, the amount of Co-57 is 
    > about few (less than 10) micrograms, so that, according to our 
    > evaluations, no significant problems are is anticipated.
    > At present, the next steps of the Russian space science program on the 
    > Solar system exploration are being discussed. In accordance with the 
    > current plans, the next missions are Luna-Glob and Luna-Resource. As 
    > another possible additional step, at the moment ROSCOSMOS, ESA and 
    > NASA are discussing the collaboration on the ExoMars and Russian 
    > Mars-NET missions. Moreover, the Russian Academy of Sciences would 
    > like to prepare a new mission to Phobos. However, no decision has not 
    > been taken yet.
    > We would like to express our deep gratitude to You and all the 
    > scientists and specialists for collaboration on the Phobos-Soil 
    > Mission, preparation of scientific instruments and provision of ground 
    > support. We are deeply sorry about the failure of the Phobos-Soil 
    > Mission. We hope in future to continue our collaboration on space 
    > science projects.
    > Academician Lev Zelenyi
    > Director, Space Research Institute
    > Chair, Solar system exploration Board
    > The Russian Academy of Sciences
    > P.S. Please, convey this letter to members of your team. Thank you.
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