Russian Space Probe Crashes
January 15, 2012 by staff
The unmanned Phobos-Grunt probe was one of the heaviest and most toxic space derelicts ever to crash to Earth, but there were no reports of injury or damage. There’s a good chance that no one actually saw the spacecraft’s fiery plunge.
“Phobos-Grunt fragments have crashed down in the Pacific Ocean,” the RIA-Novosti news service quoted Alexei Zolotukhin, a spokesman for Russia’s aerospace defense forces, as saying. The debris zone was said to be 775 miles (1,250 kilometers) west of Wellington Island in the South Pacific. Re-entry was estimated to occur at about 12:45 p.m. ET, based on the data received by the Russians.
In a Twitter update, the European Space Agency said several sources confirmed that estimate but added that experts were still checking the details. A later RIA-Novosti report quoted an unnamed source as saying the probe may have continued farther along its orbital track and crashed in Brazil or into the Atlantic Ocean.
Russia’s Roscosmos space agency predicted that only between 20 and 30 fragments of the Phobos probe with a total weight of up to 440 pounds (200 kilograms) would survive the re-entry and plummet to Earth. Heiner Klinkrad, head of the European Space Agency’s Space Debris Office, agreed with that assessment, adding that about 100 metric tons of space junk fall on Earth every year.
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