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Phobos-Grunt

Phobos-Grunt

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Fobos-Grunt or Phobos-Grunt was an attempted Russian sample return mission
Sample return mission
A sample return mission is a spacecraft mission with the goal of returning tangible samples from an extraterrestrial location to Earth for analysis. Sample return missions may bring back merely atoms and molecules or a deposit of complex compounds such as dirt and rocks...

 to Phobos
Phobos (moon)
Phobos is the larger and closer of the two natural satellites of Mars. Both moons were discovered in 1877. With a mean radius of , Phobos is 7.24 times as massive as Deimos...

, one of the moons of Mars
Mars
Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun in the Solar System. The planet is named after the Roman god of war, Mars. It is often described as the "Red Planet", as the iron oxide prevalent on its surface gives it a reddish appearance...

. It was launched on 9 November 2011 at 02:16 local time (8 November 2011, 20:16 UTC
Coordinated Universal Time
Coordinated Universal Time is the primary time standard by which the world regulates clocks and time. It is one of several closely related successors to Greenwich Mean Time. Computer servers, online services and other entities that rely on having a universally accepted time use UTC for that purpose...

) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome
Baikonur Cosmodrome
The Baikonur Cosmodrome , also called Tyuratam, is the world's first and largest operational space launch facility. It is located in the desert steppe of Kazakhstan, about east of the Aral Sea, north of the Syr Darya river, near Tyuratam railway station, at 90 meters above sea level...

, but subsequent rocket burns intended to set the craft on a course for Mars failed, leaving it stranded in low Earth orbit
Low Earth orbit
A low Earth orbit is generally defined as an orbit within the locus extending from the Earth’s surface up to an altitude of 2,000 km...

. The Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported on 24 November 2011 that the mission had been pronounced a failure because the spacecraft could no longer be sent to Mars. The final opportunity to do so passed on 21 November. If telemetry
Telemetry
Telemetry is a technology that allows measurements to be made at a distance, usually via radio wave transmission and reception of the information. The word is derived from Greek roots: tele = remote, and metron = measure...

 can be received from Phobos-Grunt before it falls back to Earth in late 2011 or early 2012, it could help identify the cause of the failure and help avoid repetition. Should control be regained, it is possible the mission could be re-tasked to visit an asteroid if the Russian authorities establish that the journey to Mars is no longer possible.

Funded by the Russian space agency Roscosmos and developed by NPO Lavochkin and the Russian Space Research Institute
Russian Space Research Institute
The Russian Space Research Institute is the leading organization of the Russian Academy of Sciences on space exploration to benefit fundamental science....

, Fobos-Grunt was the first Russian-led interplanetary mission since the failed Mars 96
Mars 96
Mars 96 was a failed Mars mission launched in 1996 to investigate Mars by the Russian Space Forces and not directly related to the Soviet Mars probe program of the same name. After failure of the second fourth-stage burn, the probe assembly re-entered the Earth's atmosphere, breaking up over a...

. (The last successful Russian interplanetary missions were Vega 2
Vega 2
Vega 2 is a Soviet space probe part of the Vega program. The spacecraft was a development of the earlier Venera craft. They were designed by Babakin Space Center and constructed as 5VK by Lavochkin at Khimki...

 in 1985–86, and the partially successful Phobos 2 in 1988–89.) Fobos-Grunt was designed to become the first spacecraft to return a macroscopic sample from an extraterrestrial body since Luna 24
Luna 24
-External links:*...

 in 1976. The return vehicle, carrying up to 200 g of soil from Phobos, was to have returned to Earth in August 2014.

Fobos-Grunt also carried the Chinese
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 Mars orbiter
Orbiter
An orbiter is a space probe that orbits a planet.-Asteroids:*NEAR Shoemaker...

 Yinghuo-1 and the tiny Living Interplanetary Flight Experiment
Living Interplanetary Flight Experiment
The Living Interplanetary Flight Experiment is an interplanetary mission developed by the Planetary Society. It consists of sending selected microorganisms on a three-year interplanetary round-trip in a small capsule aboard the Russian Fobos-Grunt spacecraft in 2011, which is a sample-return...

 funded by the Planetary Society
Planetary Society
The Planetary Society is a large, publicly supported, non-government and non-profit organization that has many research projects related to astronomy...

. Chinese state media have now declared the Yinghuo-1 probe lost.

Project history


Fobos-Grunt was a space probe designed primarily to return 200 g (7 ounces) of Phobos to Earth. It launched successfully into Earth orbit in November 2011, but did not launch to Mars as it was supposed to. Working in support of the Russian mission, an ESA tracking station in Perth, Australia managed to establish contact with the probe. The spacecraft's transmitter was switched on and a signal was received by the station's 15 m dish antenna.

Development




The Fobos-Grunt project began in 1999, when the Russian Space Research Institute
Russian Space Research Institute
The Russian Space Research Institute is the leading organization of the Russian Academy of Sciences on space exploration to benefit fundamental science....

 and NPO Lavochkin, the main developer of Soviet and Russian interplanetary probes, initiated a 9 million rouble feasibility study into a Phobos sample-return mission. The initial spacecraft design was to be similar to the probes of the Phobos program
Phobos program
The Phobos program was an unmanned space mission consisting of two probes launched by the Soviet Union to study Mars and its moons Phobos and Deimos. Phobos 2 became a Mars orbiter and returned 38 images with a resolution of up to 40 meters...

 launched in the late 1980s. Development of the spacecraft started in 2001 and the preliminary design was completed in 2004. For years, the project stalled as a result of low levels of financing of the Russian space program. This changed in the summer of 2005, when the new government plan for space activities in 2006–2015 was published. Fobos-Grunt was now made one of the program's flagship missions. With substantially improved funding, the launch date was set for October 2009. The 2004 design was revised a couple of times and international partners were invited to join the project. In June 2006, NPO Lavochkin announced that it had begun manufacturing and testing the development version of the spacecraft's onboard equipment.

On 26 March 2007, Russia and China signed a cooperative agreement on the joint exploration of Mars, which included sending China's first interplanetary probe Yinghuo-1 to Mars together with the Fobos-Grunt spacecraft. Compared to the main spacecraft, Yinghuo-1 weighed 115 kg (250 pounds) and was focused on Mars itself. It would have been released by the main spacecraft into a Mars orbit.

Skipped 2009 launch


The October 2009 launch date could not be achieved due to delays in the spacecraft development. During 2009, officials admitted that the schedule was very tight, but still hoped until the last moment that a launch could be made. On 21 September the mission was officially announced to be delayed until the next launch window in 2011. A main reason for the delay was difficulties encountered during development of the spacecraft's onboard computers. While the Moscow-based company Tehkhom provided the computer hardware on time, the internal NPO Lavochkin team responsible for integration and software development fell behind schedule. The retirement of NPO Lavochkin's head Valeriy N. Poletskiy in January 2010 was widely seen as linked to the delay of Fobos-Grunt. Viktor Khartov was appointed the new head of the company. During the extra development time resulting from the delay, a Polish-built drill was added to the Phobos lander as a back-up soil extraction device.

2011 launch


The spacecraft arrived at Baikonur
Baikonur Cosmodrome
The Baikonur Cosmodrome , also called Tyuratam, is the world's first and largest operational space launch facility. It is located in the desert steppe of Kazakhstan, about east of the Aral Sea, north of the Syr Darya river, near Tyuratam railway station, at 90 meters above sea level...

 on 17 October 2011 and was transported to Site 31 for pre-launch processing. The Zenit-2SB41 rocket carrying Fobos-Grunt successfully lifted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome at 20:16 UTC on 8 November 2011. The Zenit booster inserted the spacecraft into an initial 207 kilometre elliptical based orbit with the inclination 51.4 degrees.

Two firings of the main propulsion unit in Earth orbit are required to send the spacecraft onto the interplanetary trajectory. Since both engine ignitions would have taken place outside the range of Russian ground stations, the project participants asked volunteers around the world to take optical observations of the burns, e.g. with telescopes, and timely report the results to enable more accurate prediction of the mission flight path upon entry into the range of Russian ground stations.

Post-launch



It was expected that after 2.5 hours and 1.7 revolutions in the initial orbit, the autonomous main propulsion unit (MDU), derived from the Fregat
Fregat
Fregat is a type of rocket stage developed by NPO Lavochkin in the 1990s. Its main engine is a liquid propellant rocket that uses UDMH and N2O4 as propellants.- Specifications :...

 upper stage, would conduct its firing to insert the spacecraft into the elliptical orbit (250 km x 4,150-4,170 km) with a period of about 2.2 hours. After the completion of the first burn, the external fuel tank of the propulsion unit was expected to be jettisoned, with ignition for a second burn to depart Earth orbit scheduled for one orbit, or 2.1 hours, after the end of the first burn. The propulsion module constitutes the cruise-stage bus of Fobos-Grunt. According to original plans, Mars orbit arrival had been expected during September 2012 and the return vehicle was scheduled to reach Earth in August 2014.

However, following what would have been the planned end of the first burn the spacecraft could not be located in the target orbit. The spacecraft was subsequently discovered to still be in its initial parking orbit
Parking orbit
A parking orbit is a temporary orbit used during the launch of a satellite or other space probe. A launch vehicle boosts into the parking orbit, then coasts for a while, then fires again to enter the final desired trajectory...

, and it was determined that the burn had not taken place. One reason suggested for this behavior by Vladimir Popovkin
Vladimir Popovkin
Vladimir Aleksandrovich Popovkin is the General Director of the Russian Federal Space Agency and First Deputy Defense Minister of Russia. He is a retired General of the Army and former commander of the Russian Space Forces.- Biography :...

, the head of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), as reported by the BBC
BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

, is that the spacecraft did not fire its engines because it could not find stars to orient itself correctly. Initially, they had about three days from launch to rescue it until the batteries ran out. It was then established that its solar panels had deployed, giving engineers more time to restore control of the spacecraft. It was soon discovered the spacecraft was adjusting its orbit, changing its expected re-entry from late November or December, to as late as early 2012. Even though it had not been contacted, the spacecraft seemed to be actively adjusting its perigee
Perigee
Perigee is the point at which an object makes its closest approach to the Earth.. Often the term is used in a broader sense to define the point in an orbit where the orbiting body is closest to the body it orbits. The opposite is the apogee, the farthest or highest point.The Greek prefix "peri"...

 (the point it is closest to Earth in its orbit).

By 22 November 2011, attempts to establish connection with the probe were unsuccessful.

Re-entry risk


Roughly 7.5 metric tonnes of highly toxic hydrazine
Hydrazine
Hydrazine is an inorganic compound with the formula N2H4. It is a colourless flammable liquid with an ammonia-like odor. Hydrazine is highly toxic and dangerously unstable unless handled in solution. Approximately 260,000 tons are manufactured annually...

 and nitrogen tetroxide are on board, according to the head of Roscosmos. It is mostly fuel for the spacecraft's upper stage. The amount of fuel is nearly 20 times the amount that was on board the American spy satellite USA-193, which was shot down before reentry by the U.S. in February 2008. These compounds, with melting points of 2 °C and -11.2 °C, are normally kept in liquid form; if the probe is not rescued but they remain liquid they are expected to burn out during reentry. NASA veteran James Oberg
James Oberg
James Edward Oberg is an American space journalist and historian, regarded as an expert on the Russian space program.-Biography:...

 said the hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide "could freeze before ultimately entering". If Fobos-Grunt is not salvaged, it may be the most dangerous object to fall from orbit. However, the head of Roscomos says the probability of parts reaching the Earth is "highly unlikely", and that spacecraft would be destroyed during re-entry.

Contact


On 23 November 2011, a signal from the probe was picked up by the European Space Agency`s tracking station in Perth
Perth Station
Perth Station is an ESTRACK radio antenna station for communication with spacecraft. The station is located at the Perth International Telecommunications Centre in the suburb of Cullacabardee....

, Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

, after it had sent the probe the command to turn on one of its transmitters. The European Space Operations Centre
European Space Operations Centre
The European Space Operations Centre is responsible for controlling ESA satellites and space probes. The centre is located in Darmstadt, Germany. It is Mission Control for most of the space projects of the ESA. Since its creation in 1967, the centre has operated 60 European space missions...

 (ESOC) in Darmstadt
Darmstadt
Darmstadt is a city in the Bundesland of Hesse in Germany, located in the southern part of the Rhine Main Area.The sandy soils in the Darmstadt area, ill-suited for agriculture in times before industrial fertilisation, prevented any larger settlement from developing, until the city became the seat...

 reported that the contact was made at 20:25 UTC on 22 November 2011 after some modifications had been made to the 15 m dish facility in Perth to improve its chances of getting a signal. No telemetry
Telemetry
Telemetry is a technology that allows measurements to be made at a distance, usually via radio wave transmission and reception of the information. The word is derived from Greek roots: tele = remote, and metron = measure...

 was received in this communication. It remains unclear whether the communications link will be sufficient to command the spacecraft to switch on its engines to take it on its intended trajectory toward Mars. Roscosmos officials have said that a window of opportunity to salvage Fobos-Grunt would close in early December.

An eyewitness in San Francisco described the spacecraft emitting flashes with peaks every 20 seconds, an indication of tumbling. However, Roscosmos's top officials believe Fobos-Grunt to be functional, stably oriented and charging batteries through its solar panels.

On 24 November, telemetry was received.

Purpose



Fobos-Grunt was an interplanetary probe that included a lander to study Phobos and a sample return vehicle to return a soil sample (about 200 g (7.1 oz)) to Earth. It was to also study Mars
Mars
Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun in the Solar System. The planet is named after the Roman god of war, Mars. It is often described as the "Red Planet", as the iron oxide prevalent on its surface gives it a reddish appearance...

 from orbit, including its atmosphere
Atmosphere of Mars
The atmosphere of Mars is relatively thin and is composed mostly of carbon dioxide . There has been interest in studying its composition since the detection of trace amounts of methane, which may indicate the presence of life on Mars, but may also be produced by a geochemical process, volcanic or...

 and dust storms, plasma and radiation.

Science goals

  • Delivery of samples of Phobos soil to Earth for scientific research of Phobos, Mars and Martian vicinity;
  • In situ and remote studies of Phobos (to include analysis of soil samples);
  • Monitoring the atmospheric behavior of Mars, including the dynamics of dust storms;
  • Studies of the vicinity of Mars, including its radiation environment, plasma
    Plasma (physics)
    In physics and chemistry, plasma is a state of matter similar to gas in which a certain portion of the particles are ionized. Heating a gas may ionize its molecules or atoms , thus turning it into a plasma, which contains charged particles: positive ions and negative electrons or ions...

     and dust;
  • Study of the origin of the Martian satellites and their relation to Mars;
  • Study of the role played by asteroid impacts in the formation of terrestrial planets;
  • Search for possible past or present life (biosignature
    Biosignature
    A biosignature is any substance -such as an element, isotope, or molecule - or phenomenon that provides scientific evidence of past or present life. Measurable attributes of life include its complex physical and chemical structures and also its utilization of free energy and the production of...

    s);
  • Study the impact of a three year interplanetary round-trip journey to extremophile
    Extremophile
    An extremophile is an organism that thrives in physically or geochemically extreme conditions that are detrimental to most life on Earth. In contrast, organisms that live in more moderate environments may be termed mesophiles or neutrophiles...

     microorganisms in a small sealed capsule (LIFE experiment
    Living Interplanetary Flight Experiment
    The Living Interplanetary Flight Experiment is an interplanetary mission developed by the Planetary Society. It consists of sending selected microorganisms on a three-year interplanetary round-trip in a small capsule aboard the Russian Fobos-Grunt spacecraft in 2011, which is a sample-return...

    ).

Journey


The spacecraft's journey to Mars
Mars
Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun in the Solar System. The planet is named after the Roman god of war, Mars. It is often described as the "Red Planet", as the iron oxide prevalent on its surface gives it a reddish appearance...

 would take about ten months. After arriving in Mars orbit, the main propulsion unit (MDU) and the transfer truss separate and the Chinese Mars orbiter would be released. Fobos-Grunt would then spend several months studying the planet and its moons from orbit, before landing on Phobos
Phobos (moon)
Phobos is the larger and closer of the two natural satellites of Mars. Both moons were discovered in 1877. With a mean radius of , Phobos is 7.24 times as massive as Deimos...

. The timeline with its 2011 launch, was for arrival in Mars orbit in October 2012 and landing on Phobos in February 2013.

The planned landing site is a region from 5°S to 5°N, 230° to 235°E.

On Phobos



Soil sample collection would begin immediately after the lander has touched down on Phobos, with normal collection lasting 2–7 days. An emergency mode exists for the case of communications breakdown, which enables the lander to automatically launch the return rocket to deliver the samples to Earth.

A robotic arm would collect samples, which can be up to 0.5 inches (1.3 cm) in diameter. At the end of the arm, there is a pipe-shaped tool which splits to form a claw. The tool contained a piston which would have pushed the sample into a cylindrical container. A light-sensitive photo-diode would have confirmed whether material collection was successful and will also allow visual inspection of the digging area. The sample extraction device would have performed 15 to 20 scoops yielding a total of 3 to 5.5 oz (85 to 155.9 g) of soil. The samples would be loaded into a capsule which would then be moved inside a special pipeline into the descent module by inflating an elastic bag within the pipe with gas. Because the characteristics of Phobos soil are uncertain, the lander included another soil-extraction device, a Polish-built drill, which would have been used in case the soil turns out to be too rocky for the main scooping device.

The return stage was mounted on top of the lander. It would have needed to accelerate to 35 km/h (22 mph) to escape Phobos' gravity. In order to avoid harming the experiments remaining at the lander, the return stage would have only ignited its engine once the vehicle had been vaulted to a safe height by springs. It would then have begun maneuvers for the eventual trip to Earth, where it would have arrived in August 2014.

After the departure of the return stage, the lander's experiments would continue in situ on Phobos' surface for a year. To conserve power, mission control would have turned these on and off in a precise sequence. The robotic arm would have placed more samples in a chamber that would heat it and analyze its spectra. This analysis might have been able to determine the presence of volatile compounds, such as water.

Sample return to Earth


The return stage with soil samples from Phobos was scheduled to be back near Earth in August 2014. An 11-kg descent vehicle containing the capsule with soil samples (up to 0.2 kg (0.440924524369755 lb)) would have been released on direct approach to Earth at 12 km/s. Following the aerodynamic braking to 30 m/s the conical-shaped descent vehicle would perform a hard landing without a parachute within the Sary Shagan
Sary Shagan
Sary Shagan is an anti-ballistic missile testing range located in Kazakhstan at coordinates .On 17 August 1956 the Soviet Council of Ministers authorized plans for an experimental facility for missile defense located at Sary Shagan, on the west bank of Lake Balkhash...

 test range in Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan , officially the Republic of Kazakhstan, is a transcontinental country in Central Asia and Eastern Europe. Ranked as the ninth largest country in the world, it is also the world's largest landlocked country; its territory of is greater than Western Europe...

. The vehicle does not have any radio equipment. Ground-based radar and optical observations would have been used to track the vehicle's return.

Spacecraft instruments

  • TV system for navigation and guidance
  • Gas-Chromatograph package:
    • Thermal Differential Analyzer
    • Gas-Chromatograph
    • Mass-Spectrometer
  • Gamma ray spectrometer
  • Neutron spectrometer
  • Alpha X spectrometer
  • Seismometer
  • Long-wave radar
  • Visual and near-infrared spectrometer
  • Dust counter
  • Ion spectrometer
  • Optical solar sensor

Ground control


The mission control center
Mission Control Center
A mission control center is an entity that manages aerospace vehicle flights, usually from the point of lift-off until the landing or the end of the mission. A staff of flight controllers and other support personnel monitor all aspects of the mission using telemetry, and send commands to the...

 was located at the Center for Deep Space Communications (Национальный центр управления и испытаний космических средств , Євпаторійський центр дальнього космічного зв'язку ) equipped with RT-70 radio telescope
Yevpatoria RT-70 radio telescope
The Yevpatoria RT-70 radio telescope is an RT-70 radio telescope and planetary radar at the Center for Deep Space Communications, Yevpatoria, Crimea, Ukraine. In the scientific literature is often called Evpatoria planetary radar .With its 70m antenna diameter, it is among the largest single dish...

 near Yevpatoria in the Crimea
Crimea
Crimea , or the Autonomous Republic of Crimea , is a sub-national unit, an autonomous republic, of Ukraine. It is located on the northern coast of the Black Sea, occupying a peninsula of the same name...

, Ukraine
Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

. Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

 and Ukraine
Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

 agreed in late October 2010 that the European Space Operations Centre
European Space Operations Centre
The European Space Operations Centre is responsible for controlling ESA satellites and space probes. The centre is located in Darmstadt, Germany. It is Mission Control for most of the space projects of the ESA. Since its creation in 1967, the centre has operated 60 European space missions...

 in Darmstadt
Darmstadt
Darmstadt is a city in the Bundesland of Hesse in Germany, located in the southern part of the Rhine Main Area.The sandy soils in the Darmstadt area, ill-suited for agriculture in times before industrial fertilisation, prevented any larger settlement from developing, until the city became the seat...

, Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

, would have controled the probe.

Communications with the spacecraft on the initial parking orbit are described in a two-volume publication on «Fobos-Grunt» as follows (excerpt, as translated from Russian):

2-7 Organization of the spacecraft (SC) control


Main tasks of providing the control of the SC



Trans Martian injection phase



Organization of interoperation with the SC is characterized by practical inability to provide two-way communications with the SC, mainly in the initial parking orbit. This means that the first maneuver along the powered flight path between the parking orbit and the transfer orbit is performed by the SC automatically. The correct execution of the first orbit correction maneuver requires that the following conditions are met:
  • launch to the initial orbit is performed correctly;
  • initiation of the burn is synchronized with a preset moment of Moscow Decree Time for a specific launch date.


To meet the second condition a non-volatile clock, counting the Moscow Decree Time and Date with adequate precision, is used with its dedicated power source on board the SC.


Monitoring of the SC flight starts after the flight computer is switched on by the contacts triggered by the SC separation followed by the flight computer initializing the onboard systems. The initialization takes 30 to 60 seconds. Then РПТ111 device is switched on, through which telemetry about the SC condition is transmitted to Earth. Starting with receiving this data the mission control center assumes «Fobos-Grunt» mission control.


While in parking orbit within the range of Russian ground stations, one-way monitoring of the SC flight is performed on the telemetry channel via РПТ111 transmitter, and the trajectory measurements are performed using 28Г6 device.


After reaching the transfer orbit the visibility areas are increased, angular velocity of the SC movement relative to the ground stations is decreased, an opportunity becomes available to establish two-way communications with the SC via onboard radiosystem of the cruise stage.

Development



Main participants


The main contractor of the project is NPO Lavochkin, which is responsible for the space mission component development. Chief Designer of Phobos Grunt at Lavochkin is Maksim Martynov. Phobos soil sampling and downloading were developed by the GEOHI RAN Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences
Russian Academy of Sciences
The Russian Academy of Sciences consists of the national academy of Russia and a network of scientific research institutes from across the Russian Federation as well as auxiliary scientific and social units like libraries, publishers and hospitals....

 (Vernadski Institute of Geochemistry and Analytical chemistry) and the integrated scientific studies of Phobos and Mars by remote and contact methods are responsibility of the Russian Space Research Institute
Russian Space Research Institute
The Russian Space Research Institute is the leading organization of the Russian Academy of Sciences on space exploration to benefit fundamental science....

, where the lead scientist of the mission is Alexander Zakharov.

Budget


The cost of the spacecraft was 1.5 billion rubles ($64.4 million). Project funding for the timeframe 2009–2012, including post-launch operations is about 2.4 billion rubles. Total cost of the mission is 5 billion rubles ($163 million). In comparison, the more ambitious NASA/ESA joint Mars sample return mission
Mars Sample Return Mission
A Mars sample return mission would be a spaceflight mission to collect rock and dust samples from Mars and to return them to Earth for analysis...

 is expected to cost around $8.5 billion.

Revival of interplanetary missions


Fobos-Grunt was the first Russian interplanetary mission since Mars 96
Mars 96
Mars 96 was a failed Mars mission launched in 1996 to investigate Mars by the Russian Space Forces and not directly related to the Soviet Mars probe program of the same name. After failure of the second fourth-stage burn, the probe assembly re-entered the Earth's atmosphere, breaking up over a...

, which suffered a launch failure. The last Russian or Soviet interplanetary mission that was successfully launched was the second probe of the Phobos program
Phobos program
The Phobos program was an unmanned space mission consisting of two probes launched by the Soviet Union to study Mars and its moons Phobos and Deimos. Phobos 2 became a Mars orbiter and returned 38 images with a resolution of up to 40 meters...

 in 1988. Fobos-Grunt would have been the first sample return mission to the natural satellite of another planet conducted by mankind. If successful, Fobos-Grunt would have paved the way to a number of Russian interplanetary missions, including missions to the moons of Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus, and asteroid and comet sample return missions.

The Russian Federal Space Agency
Russian Federal Space Agency
The Russian Federal Space Agency , commonly called Roscosmos and abbreviated as FKA and RKA , is the government agency responsible for the Russian space science program and general aerospace research. It was previously the Russian Aviation and Space Agency .Headquarters of Roscosmos are located...

 has said 90% of Phobos Grunt was made of new and untested elements. According to lead scientist Alexander Zakharov, the entire spacecraft and most of the instruments are new, although they do draw on the heritance of the three successful Luna
Luna programme
The Luna programme , occasionally called Lunik or Lunnik, was a series of robotic spacecraft missions sent to the Moon by the Soviet Union between 1959 and 1976. Fifteen were successful, each designed as either an orbiter or lander, and accomplished many firsts in space exploration...

 sample-return missions of the 1970s. Zakharov had described the Phobos sample return project as "very difficult", possibly "the most difficult interplanetary one to date."

Partners


The Chinese Mars
Mars
Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun in the Solar System. The planet is named after the Roman god of war, Mars. It is often described as the "Red Planet", as the iron oxide prevalent on its surface gives it a reddish appearance...

 probe Yinghuo-1 was sent together with Fobos-Grunt. In late 2012, after a 10-11.5 month cruise, Yinghuo-1 would have separated and entered a 800×80,000 km equatorial orbit (5° inclination) with a period of three days. The spacecraft was expected to remain on Martian orbit for one year. Yinghuo-1 would have focused mainly on the study of the external environment of Mars. Space center researchers expected to use photographs and data to study the magnetic field of Mars and the interaction between ionospheres, escape particles and solar wind.

A second Chinese payload, the Soil Offloading and Preparation System (SOPSYS), was integrated into the instruments of the lander. SOPSYS is a microgravity grinding tool developed by the Hong Kong Polytechnic University
Hong Kong Polytechnic University
The Hong Kong Polytechnic University specialises in professional education in Hong Kong. The University’s teaching units are grouped under six faculties and two schools; the Faculty of Applied Science and Textiles, Faculty of Business, Faculty of Construction and Environment, Faculty of...

.

Another payload on Fobos-Grunt was an experiment from the Planetary Society
Planetary Society
The Planetary Society is a large, publicly supported, non-government and non-profit organization that has many research projects related to astronomy...

 called Living Interplanetary Flight Experiment
Living Interplanetary Flight Experiment
The Living Interplanetary Flight Experiment is an interplanetary mission developed by the Planetary Society. It consists of sending selected microorganisms on a three-year interplanetary round-trip in a small capsule aboard the Russian Fobos-Grunt spacecraft in 2011, which is a sample-return...

, or LIFE, which was to send 10 types of microorganisms and a natural soil colony of microbes on the three-year round trip. The results might have fueled the debate about whether meteorite-riding organisms can spread life throughout the solar system.

Two MetNet
MetNet
MetNet is an atmospheric science mission to Mars, initiated and defined by the Finnish Meteorological Institute. The mission includes sending several tens of MetNet landers on the Martian surface. The objective is to establish a widespread surface observation network on Mars to investigate the...

 Mars landers, developed by the Finnish Meteorological Institute
Finnish Meteorological Institute
The Finnish Meteorological Institute is the government agency responsible for gathering and reporting weather data and forecasts in Finland. It is a part of the Ministry of Transport and Communications but it operates semi-autonomously....

, were planned to be included as a payload to the Fobos-Grunt mission. Due to delays in MetNet development, the landers were not ready for the previous launch date of Fobos-Grunt, 2009. For the 2011 launch window, which is not as suitable as the 2009 one, weight constraints on the Fobos-Grunt spacecraft required dropping the MetNet landers from the mission.

The Bulgarian Academy of Sciences
Bulgarian Academy of Sciences
The Bulgarian Academy of Sciences is the National Academy of Bulgaria, established in 1869. The Academy is autonomous and has a Society of Academicians, Correspondent Members and Foreign Members...

 also installed its own radiation measurement experiment on Fobos-Grunt.

Critiques


Barry E. DiGregorio, the director of the International Committee Against Mars Sample Return, criticised the LIFE experiment
Living Interplanetary Flight Experiment
The Living Interplanetary Flight Experiment is an interplanetary mission developed by the Planetary Society. It consists of sending selected microorganisms on a three-year interplanetary round-trip in a small capsule aboard the Russian Fobos-Grunt spacecraft in 2011, which is a sample-return...

 carried by Fobos-Grunt as a violation of the Outer Space Treaty
Outer Space Treaty
The Outer Space Treaty, formally the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, is a treaty that forms the basis of international space law...

 due to the possibility of contamination of Phobos or Mars with the microbial spores and live bacteria it contains.

While Fobos-Grunt lands on and returns from Phobos, it might lose control and crash land on Mars. It is speculated that the heat-resistant extremophile bacteria would survive such a crash, on the basis that Microbispora bacteria survived the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster
Space Shuttle Columbia disaster
The Space Shuttle Columbia disaster occurred on February 1, 2003, when shortly before it was scheduled to conclude its 28th mission, STS-107, the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated over Texas and Louisiana during re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere, resulting in the death of all seven crew members...

.

However, according to Fobos-Grunt Chief Designer Maksim Martynov, the probability of the probe accidentally reaching the surface of Mars is much lower than the maximum specified for Category III missions, the type assigned to Fobos-Grunt and defined in COSPAR
COSPAR
The Committee on Space Research was established by the International Council for Science in 1958.Among COSPAR's objectives are the promotion of scientific research in space on an international level, with emphasis on the free exchange of results, information, and opinions, and providing a forum,...

's planetary protection
Planetary protection
Planetary protection is the term used to describe a guiding principle in design of an interplanetary mission that aims to prevent biological contamination of both the target celestial body and the Earth. This principle arises from the scientific need to preserve planetary conditions for future...

 policy (in accordance with Article IX of the Outer Space Treaty).

Collaborators



External links