Russian Poison From The Sky

This time, it’s the Russian’s turn to randomly drop a spacecraft to Earth from orbit, only this one is loaded up with ten tons of highly toxic chemicals. When you duck, don’t forget your umbrella.

Toxic Russian Mars Probe Heads Back to Earth

It’s hard to believe that only last week we were getting excited for Russia’s first interplanetary mission in 15 years to launch. By now, we should be happy in the knowledge that the ambitious — and awesome — mission is powering through space, toward the Martian moon Phobos.

The reality is that we are now discussing uncontrolled reentry scenarios.

As if that wasn’t enough bad news, we are looking at 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.

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.

It is for these reasons that the Russian media is dubbing Phobos-Grunt “Most toxic falling satellite ever.”

See also:
Russia’s Phobos-Grunt Spacecraft Goes AWOL
Russian Mars Probe Will Likely Come Crashing Back to Earth
Toxic Russian Mars Probe Likely Heading Back to Earth
Mood grim over Mars probe faultRussia Running Out Of Time, As Mars Mission Seems Destined To Fail
Report: Russians Believe Martian Moon Probe is ‘Lost’
Source: Russian Space Probe Unlikely to be Saved
Phobos-Grunt Mars probe remains silent in Earth orbit
Now Russians can’t even contact their busted Mars probe
Contact with Russian Mars probe ‘unlikely’ – expert
Failed Russian space mission shows difficulty of exploring Mars
Salvaging Science from Stricken Mars Moon Probe: A Scientist’s View
Phobos-Grunt mission
Fobos-Grunt

Man, the Russians just can’t catch a break. This is their fourth launch failure just this year and now they’re 0 for 18 at Mars missions.

/and we trust the Russians with our U.S. astronauts, it makes me nervous

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Stardust Memories

A mission well played and an efficient use of taxpayer money too. They wrung every last bit of scientific data out of every last dollar.

Lights go out on NASA’s Stardust comet mission

Fresh off a bonus flyby of comet Tempel 1 in February, NASA’s Stardust spacecraft fired its four main engines for more than two minutes Thursday, draining its fuel tank as managers said goodbye to the well-traveled comet chaser after more than 12 years in space.

With Stardust’s single hydrazine fuel tank emptied, the craft lost its ability to control its orientation and the probe’s solar panels were expected to lose track of the sun, and officials anticipated the mission’s battery charge would be exhausted within hours.

Stardust was also programmed to turn off its radio transmitters about 20 minutes after the burn, just in case it might interfere with some future mission using the same frequency.

NASA announced the last transmission from Stardust was received at 7:33 p.m. EDT (2333 GMT) Thursday. Officials monitored the burn from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California and issued commands from the Lockheed Martin Corp. mission support center in Denver.

See also:
NASA and Lockheed Martin Say Goodbye to Historic Stardust Spacecraft
NASA’s Venerable Comet Hunter Wraps Up Mission
NASA’s Stardust: Good to the Last Drop
Inside NASA’s Space Funeral for the Comet-Hunting Stardust Probe
NASA kills off comet hunter
Comet-hunting spacecraft shuts down after 12 years
NASA Retires Comet-Hunter Stardust
NASA’s Stardust set to ‘burn to depletion’
NASA’s stardust empties its tank after 12 years
NASA’s ‘Comet Hunter’ Heads Off Into The ‘Sunset’
Stardust – NASA’s Comet Sample Return Mission
NASA – Stardust
Stardust (spacecraft)

Hopefully they put some type of return address on it.

/maybe, like a note in a bottle, something out there will find Stardust and bring it back home, as long as they’re good aliens that come in peace

Return Of The Dustbuster From Outer Space

******************************UPDATE******************************

Touchdown, the crowd goes wild!

Space Probe Returns After 7-Year Asteroid Voyage

A Japanese space probe landed in the Australian outback on Monday after a 7-year voyage to an asteroid, lighting up the night sky and bringing what scientists hope is a rock sample, witnesses said.

The Hayabusa probe blazed a spectacular trail as it came in to hit the ground at a blistering speed, ending a journey to the near-Earth asteroid Itokawa that began in 2003.

An Australian defense spokesman told Reuters scientists monitoring the probe’s return had confirmed it had landed and identified its location, but it would not be retrieved until daylight. Only then would it become clear if a capsule thought to contain the precious sample was intact.

See also:
Space probe returns to Earth from trip to asteroid
Japan’s ‘Falcon’ Returns After Seven-Year Asteroid Mission
Probe returns to Earth after asteroid landing
NASA Aircraft Videos Hayabusa Re-Entry
Hayabusa completes fiery return to Earth
Mission Accomplished For Japan’s Asteroid Explorer Hayabusa

/now we just need to find out exactly what, if anything, Hayabusa brought back

******************************END UPDATE******************************

A long time ago, in a country far far away, the Japanese sent a spacecraft . . .

to land on an asteroid that looks like a giant space turd . . .

and bring back some dirt.

Japanese Probe Set to Land in Australian Outback Sunday, Returning First Asteroid Sample to Earth

A Japanese meteor-investigator probe will become a meteor itself when it returns to Earth over the weekend. The Hayabusa probe is screaming toward Earth at asteroid speed,
according to scientists at NASA’s Ames Research Center. Scientists hope it is carrying samples obtained from a 2005 visit to the small asteroid Itokawa.

The probe’s sample-return capsule will separate from the main probe and reenter the atmosphere at 7.58 miles per second early Sunday. Scientists from NASA, the Japanese Space Agency and other organizations are planning to watch its fiery descent to learn more about how objects behave and break up during high-speed reentry.

When Hayabusa (“falcon” in Japanese) reaches an altitude of 190,000 feet, its heat shield will reach temperatures of more than 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit, while the gas surrounding the capsule will reach 13,000 degrees Fahrenheit — hotter than the surface of the sun, NASA says. It is planned to fall over a large unpopulated area of Australia called the Woomera Prohibited Area.

There’s no guarantee of success — actually, scientists don’t even know if Hayabusa is carrying anything. The craft has been plagued with problems for five years.

It made two touchdowns on Itokawa in 2005 to collect rocks and soil, but apparently failed to fire a metal bullet designed to dislodge the samples. Then, a fuel leak left its chemical propellant tanks empty, so engineers had to use Hayabusa’s ion engines to guide it home. Still, Hayabusa was the first spacecraft to land on a celestial object other than the moon and take off again.

See also:
Japan’s “Falcon” Spacecraft Returns—Asteroid Dust On Board?
Japan’s Asteroid Mission Set For Fiery Re-entry Over Australia
Japan Itokawa asteroid mission set for re-entry
Asteroid spacecraft makes its way back to Earth
Japanese space probe returns home Sunday
Japan asteroid probe to make historic return to Earth
Hayabusa just hours from home
Scientists wait in Outback for Japanese spacecraft
Japan’s ‘Falcon’ Set to Land After Seven-Year Asteroid Mission
Ames Research Center
Ames Research Center
JAXA | Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency
Hayabusa
Hayabusa

Well, I wish JAXA luck and hope they retrieve lots of asteroid dirt to play with. Otherwise, it’ll be a lot like Geraldo opening Al Capone’s vault.

/let’s all hope Hayabusa didn’t pick up any cosmic hitchhikers like in The Andromeda Strain