Sunday, November 13, 2011

Russians desperately try to save Mars moon probe

A Russian space probe became stuck in orbit this week after an equipment failure, raising fears it could come crashing down and spill tons of highly toxic fuel on Earth unless engineers can steer it back to its flight path the spacecraft was headed for one of Mars' two moons when it developed technical problems.

U.S. space and Defense Department officials are tracking it. Officials at NASA in Washington figure it will be at least a week, maybe more, before the errant space probe falls to Earth, if it does. The Russians are trying to get it back on course one independent U.S. expert on the Russian space program said the spacecraft could become the most dangerous manmade object ever to hit the planet. But those at the U.S. space agency and other space debris experts are far less worried. They believe the fuel will probably explode harmlessly in Earth's upper atmosphere.

NASA chief debris scientist Nicholas Johnson said the spacecraft's orbit is already starting to degrade slightly "From the orbits we're seeing from the U.S. Space Surveillance Network, it's going to be a couple weeks before it comes in," Johnson said Wednesday afternoon. "It's not going to be that immediate."

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