Sunday, November 20, 2011

Ghost In the Machine?

There's been precious little info on Phobos/Grunt in the course of the last rotation of our Home Planet. This morning I stumbled upon an article from Universe Today published this Wednesday that says there is some life to Phobos/Grunt:

"The Phobos-Grunt probe is still stuck in orbit around Earth. However, periodically the spacecraft experiences a mysterious slight boost in its orbit.  Following the first episode where this occurred, commentators speculated as to the cause.  The activation of the spacecraft’s thrusters – the small engines that are designed to steer the craft and make small adjustments  – was an obvious answer."

The lack of information from the tight lipped Russian Space Agency Roscosmos, is reminiscent of their Cold War Era posture, though I'm not saying anything nefarious's just that as a life-long Space Geek raised on the Cold War's Space Race and James Bond films wherein seemingly every Bond Villain operated a private space program in service to his Evil Vision of World Domination, silence isn't exactly golden in my Worldview.

Enough with the fantasy...Most observers believe that Roscosmos will not be able to reestablish communications with, or control of the spacecraft. The author of the Universe Today article, Dr David Warmflash  of the Planetary Society  takes the pragmatic view:

"With information coming from Roscosmos being so scarce, reporting on the mission that began was launched on November 9, 2011 has depended on a few official statements from the agency, augmented by speculation from various space experts. Being in safe mode, Grunt simply is waiting for instructions –instructions that controllers are having difficulty delivering, because initial communication was not supposed to take place with the probe at such a low orbit."

"If Grunt’s safe mode includes a program that fires thrusters every so often to keep the craft from entering the atmosphere in the event of a malfunction just after reaching low Earth orbit, no statements from Roscosmos have mentioned it, thus far. Whatever the reason, if it continues to occur, we can expect that the predicted date of atmospheric entry will be moved back again, just as it was moved from late November/early December to mid-January after the first orbital correction episode."

Dr David Warmflash, M.D., is an astrobiologist and science lead for the U.S. team of the Planetary Society's Living Interplanetary Flight Experiment that's hitchhiking on Phobos/Grunt. ( doesn't his name evoke...maybe the Father of a Bond Girl?)

CorduroyPlanet will stand down from the Phobos/GruntWatch deal for a few weeks...more to come as events dictate.


  1. you sure they aien't falling turkeys?

  2. Naaaaa...turkeys can fly...wild turkeys anyway.

    Wild turkeys can fly five days after hatching.

    Nobody told Les Nessman however...

  3. Maybe the turkeys were frozen.