In keeping with November's eleventh month meme, the Russian Mars Probe Phobos/Grunt made contact with European Space Agency via it's Australian Listening Post at the "11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month" for the Mars Mission...to borrow the old saw...
It's a story sure to warm the hearts of Solar Power Advocates as well as space watchers and Mars Fans. From the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's website:
But before losing control of the probe, the Russians sent out instructions for it to deploy its solar panels, an ESA official said. "Initially, it was thought that the spacecraft would die after three days when its battery ran out. But the solar panels played a crucial role yesterday, enabling the ground station in Perth to make contact," the source said. Perth is the sole means of communicating with Phobos-Grunt as it is the only listening post in a part of the Earth that is in daylight when the probe passes overhead, the official explained.
Most experts agree the chances of Phobos/Grunt recovering and completing it's mission to Mars are slim to none. Certainly the chance of returning soil samples from Mars' moon Phobos are now zero. Phobos/Grunt could still rendezvous with the Red Planet, but the "window" for the return of samples has closed due to the two week delay .
According to the ESA Press Release, Controllers will have two short shots today to talk to Phobos/Grunt of seven and six minutes one orbit apart (roughly 90 minutes apart at 20:21GMTand 21:53GMT) That's 12:21PM PDT and 1:53PM PDT.
The story is fascinating, reminiscent in many ways of the "Seat of the Pants" "Engineering on the Fly" of NASA's early days of Manned Spaceflight...Should these Space Cowboys stay on their roll, they just might pull a rabbit outta their hat!
I'll post the latest when it becomes available.