back to article Russian Mars probe heads into space WITHOUT ENGINES

Boffins from the Russian space agency are baffled by the odd behaviour of the Phobos-Grunt probe, which seems to be flying all on its own without the aid of its non-firing engines. The spacecraft, originally meant for a mission to Martian moon Phobos, has been stuck in an Earth orbit for most of this month after two engine …


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  1. amanfromearth


    All your spacecraft are belong to us.

    1. Graham Marsden

      This is the voice...

      ... of the Mysterons. We know that you can hear us Earthmen.

      Cease sending your spy probes to our planet or face our revenge!

      Da-da dah da-da-da dum!

  2. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Pay up and quit fcuking about ..... there are other programs in the works to be done.

    And it's only money which can be invented out of thin air, these days, so why the dumb hassle?

    “If it becomes clear that everything has failed and the insurance issue is settled… we will decide what to do next,” he said."

    Circling around Earth whenever it is contracted to deliver services to Mars, and the insurance issue is not settled and full compensation not paid out yet? Isn't that just bloody typical.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Who better to comment on this?

  3. Gavin McMenemy

    I think this image says it all.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    quagaars - that is all.

  5. TeeCee Gold badge


  6. dotdavid

    All your engines are belong to us

    So, it's not possible the command to start the engines made the engines do *something* to change the orbit, if not exactly what was expected?

    Or is it under the control of ET? ;-)

    1. hayseed

      Maybe a Workman punched a little hole in some tube (NT)

      - and leaks contribute thrust

  7. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge



  8. TRT Silver badge

    Are they sure that the command and control systems haven't been hacked? It's looking suspiciously like some kind of James Bond film to me.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      There are no nuclear weapons on this craft, I can't see why this is so important to you?

  9. MattW

    "and the insurance issue is settled"

    Wonder if they stumped up for fully comp?...

    1. Z-Eden

      Nah, just third party fire and theft!

      1. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart

        Don't be silly, who'd want to steal a burning satellite.

        Mine’s the one with a bottle of accelerant in the pocket

  10. Richard Ball


    If the 'wings' are indeed turning some of its speed into height, then they won't have to wait very long (like half an orbit?) to see that it's still heading for a bath.

    It'll be planting a Chinese flag on Venus before you know it.

    1. mr-tom

      Russian Mars probe heads into space WITHOUT ENGINES

      "It'll be planting a Chinese flag on Venus before you know it."

      Or even a Russian one?

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    We choose to go to the Moon

    not because it is hard, but because it is easier.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      In Soviet Russia...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        In Soviet Russia, moon land on you!

  12. CowardlyAndrew

    Its the X37B - using a low thrust configuration to avoid detection while tethered to the russian craft.

  13. Anonymous Coward

    Another option....

    Is that Phobos-Grunt has become self-aware, stopped talking with its fleshy oppressors and has decided its time to leave Earth in search of actual intelligent life!!

  14. Kane

    Only one explanation


  15. DJ 2

    From the comments that are going around on the MPML list, it's fooked.

    "I just watched it pass from San Francisco. This thing is tumbling. It started out ISS bright. Then it faded. Then it intensified to the brightness of an iridium flare. Peak-to-peak was about 20 seconds.

    Tommorow night, SF has an even higher viewing.


    1. jubtastic1

      That would rule out solar panel wings then

      Like that was ever likely, so looks like its just getting lighter, leaving a trail of fuel behind it as it rises into space, let's hope John McClane doesn't get careless with his zippo.

    2. Andus McCoatover

      I'm certainly no rocket scientist...

      ...But the Russians said they couldn't communicate, because the antennas are in the wrong orientation. So, if it's tumbling, at some point you'd think they would be OK. Would hope the other countries with the capabilities would assist.

      (Wish, sometimes I didn't live so far North - 65 degrees. Then, I'd be able to see both. Rats. I'd love to. Once-in-a-lifetime.)

  16. Brent Longborough

    SCADA Fuel Pump...

    Is all.

  17. Steve Knox


    1. Make a "Mars Probe".

    2. Shoot it into orbit.

    3. Have it "fail" to escape orbit.

    4. Enjoy your new spy satellite, which NO-ONE SUSPECTS!

  18. MahFL22

    Flying ?

    I highly doubt the solar panels will work as wings at that orbital height, also the things weighs 11 tonnes.

    1. Steve Evans

      and even if it did, it would create some drag to create lift... and that will slow the craft down and the orbit will decay. You can't go creating enough lift to raise to a higher orbit without putting a bit more ooph out of the motors to keep the speed up... Otherwise you could throw a paper plane into orbit by hand!

  19. Jellied Eel Silver badge


    with a borked tractor beam, obviously. Watch trajectory closely, wait till probe turns into a can then unleash the smart bombs!

  20. BristolBachelor Gold badge

    I read about this a while ago, but in that case it was some orbit prediction software. It was trying to match the reported positions with an orbit, and adjusting the orbit to fit the viewings. In the end there was a cyclic variance of the orbit increasing a little, then a bit more and then decreasing in a similar way to rounding errors in some types of calculation.

    We have hardly had any clear skys here since it launched for visual confirmation of the orbit :(

    However, it's all for nought if the TM/TC systems are not operating.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    please please please

    bump into any / all skys satellites and put us out of misery

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Typical of a Russian

    First chance to escape from the mother country and they are gone.

    Probably doing the happy dance right now.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Rise of the Machines

    Shouldn't this story be filed under ROTM? :)

  24. jason 7

    Did the insurance company....

    .....actually see what they loaded into the top of the launch rocket?

    Could have been a busted old boiler filled with concrete.

  25. rrevolverr

    Russian Roulette

    Kinda long body, MD=200 km. Just 200.

  26. Lars Silver badge

    Well, well

    It has clearly been high jacked.

  27. Barracoder


    Russians? Insurance? Has anyone had a look to see if there's a suspiciously satellite-looking thing lying under a tarp in the bacl of the lab?

  28. Joe Harrison

    I think Steve has it right

    "We are pleased to announce orbital insertion of our spy satel... OH sorry I mean (takes out onion) the sad failure of our heroic Mars mission"

  29. Madboater

    this could turn

    The theory of relitivity on its head!

  30. Mike Flugennock

    no propulsion, but... rising?

    Whoooaaaaa. I see a premise for a '50s Grade B sci-fi movie here. Too bad Roger Corman's gone.

  31. Wombling_Free

    We seem to be venting something....

    ...monomethyl hydrazine perhaps?

    Things could get exciting if it gets high enough to reach the ISS orbit... but then we can just send a Shuttle up to move the ISS or the Grunt.

    oh. wait...

    oh well, pass the popcorn!

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I knew they were right all along...

    It must be the gravitational pull of Planet Nibiru.

  33. json

    focus on the moon..

    .. dont aim for a lower goal russia!

  34. Andus McCoatover

    BBC reports they've recieved communication from the thing.

    'Course, it might just be "HELP", but hope isn't lost yet. Think the opportunity to visit Mars has gone for now, but I wondered if they can park the thing in a Lagrange spot, and, assuming it's still functional, wait for the next opportunity?

    This is really interesting to watch...Bit of Apollo-13 stuff, ripping success from the jaws of failure?

  35. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    "bump into any / all skys satellites and put us out of misery"

    Well it didn't bump anything off permanently, but last year Galaxy 15 here over the US *did* go out of control, and drifted past the paths of Galaxy 12 and AMC11. It's bent-pipe transmitters were still running so it knocked out the signal for each satellite for about 30 minutes as it drifted path.

    Anyway, if the sat's tumbling, it probably does have a leak as well.

  36. Winkypop Silver badge

    Russians eh?

    Shoulda called the men from: Special Projects Bureau!

  37. Tom 13
    Black Helicopters

    We beat back the Martian invasion in 1898,

    and the governments here really expected us to be able to continue launching invasion vehicles at them without some sort of counter-response?

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