Scientists grew excited last week as Russia's planned its first interplanetary mission in 15 years. By now, the ambitious mission should be powering through space, toward the Martian moon Phobos.
Instead, Russia's space agency spent Friday discussing uncontrolled reentry scenarios.
Authorities may be looking for someone to blame after a lengthy string of mission failures. According to an Interfax bulletin, an anonymous source indicated that this may force reform in the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, and "a number of positions of responsible persons" could face jail time.
As if that news weren't bad enough, this could be an uncontrolled toxic reentry scenario.
Phobos-Grunt -- correctly written "Fobos-Grunt," meaning "Phobos-Soil" or "Phobos-Ground" -- is fully laden with unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide; that's ten tons of fuel and oxidizer. The probe itself weighs in at only three tons.
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The majority of the fuel will likely vaporize during reentry, but everyone will be hoping for a splash-down in an ocean (which covers two-thirds of Earth, fortunately), as the wreckage will still be hazardous. There's also a small quantity of radioactive cobalt-57 in one of the science missions housed in the probe -- a fact that will most likely cause a media frenzy.
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