Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Quick Phobos/Grunt Update 6

I finally managed to view Phobos/Grunt Tuesday morning when it's orbit brought the distressed Russian Mars Probe right over my town. The near dawn time frame was perfect...the waxing moon had set, and nautical twilight was just beginning in the East.

I walked down the street a hundred yards, and stood in my neighbor's driveway where the forest gave way to a large swath of the Southwestern sky. At the appointed minute, the Mag.1.3 satellite came racing overhead. The spacecraft continued to the SSE, disappearing into the twilight. No twinkling, flashing, dimming or intensifying was observed. The probe seemed to be flying straight and true.

This morning, @ralfvandebergh tweeted a link to his astrophotographs on Space Safety Magazine that show Phobos/Grunt traveling in a low drag attitude. This is the favored attitude to avoid orbital decay, but in this configuration the solar panels don't track the Sun. The resulting lack of power generation must have bedeviled efforts to contact the spacecraft.

Astrophoto: Ralf Vandebergh
Just a few minutes ago, @PhG_Reentry tweeted a link to @ThierryLegault's extraordinary video of Phobos/Grunt passing over Nice, France on New Year's Day morning.

@PhG_Reentry tweets the latest reentry estimate:  "Still tracking for 17 January ± 2 days solar flux still reducing"

CorduroyPlanet's Phobos/GruntWatch will go LIVE when the time comes...Stay tuned!


  1. But did you notice the strong discrepancy in the orientation of Fobos-Grunt in orbit both videographers arrived at in late Dec./early Jan.? Look at the vectors on Legault's website and on Vandebergh's pictures - and then read what the former has to say about the image processing approach of the latter (whom I asked to provide a detailled reply, to no avail).

  2. It is high time that Russia collaborates with India on such space missions. Will save cost and time for both. Chances of such types of failures will hopefully come down.