back to article It's ALIVE! Broken Russian Mars probe finally answers calls

The Martian probe Phobos-Grunt, lost in space for the last 14 days, has finally responded to Earth's signals. The European Space Agency said on its website today that its tracking station in Perth, Australia, had received a signal from the craft at 2025 GMT on Tuesday. "ESA teams are working closely with engineers in Russia …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yay for us Aussies!

    Maybe it looked like a really big keg of beer someone had lost?

  2. TRT Silver badge

    It wasn't much of an answer though...

    it wasn't much more than a grunt.

  3. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge


    It's death Jim, but not as we know it.

  4. Thomas 18

    AI woken up

    My bet is on a sentient AI probe that is planning its next move having escaped the clutches of its meat-bag creators.

  5. Rob

    What was the anser...

    ... 'Goodbye'

    1. rjmx


      "I'm sorry, Dave. I can't do that."

  6. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

    Maybe it thought the the Red Centre was Mars

    Good going by the Aussies! hopefully something can be salvaged from the mission

  7. Anonymous John

    "it could still make the journey to Mars, though it might be too late for that now. " Possibly not as NASA is launching a Mars mission on Saturday.

    If its orbit can be raised, I wonder if it could wait a couple of years for the next Mars/Phobos window?

    1. David 164

      I was wondering the same thing. But I guest there would be technical problems with that, such as fuel burn off and wear and tear of it solar panels.

      Would love someone with more knowledge to answer the question of why this probe cant be kept in Earth orbit until the next windows opens up.

      1. DJ 2

        You can't keep a satellite up without expending power, even Geosync satellites need a little power for station keeping, in a low earth orbit you have atmospheric drag to contend with, let alone avoiding all the bits and bobs that are spinning around up there. Send it to the moon, get some sort of work out of it, although I bet that's going to be tricky as the moon has a higher G than phobos.

        1. defiler

          @DJ 2

          Well, why not send it to the moon and use a gravitational slingshot to whip it towards Mars? Would that not be worth a shot? That said, perhaps they've been planning that all along. And I suppose it's not just the getting-going that's the issue - the thing has to stop at the other end too.

          Still, could be cool if it worked - like MacGuyver in space!

      2. Anonymous John

        There are precedents. The Japanese Venus probe that failed to go into orbit in December 2010. A further attempt is planned in 2015. And Hayabusa which got back to Earth three years later than planned. Space probes seem capable of a lot when pushed.

    2. BristolBachelor Gold badge

      "Possibly not as NASA is launching a Mars mission on Saturday"

      yes, but are they launching into the same orbit as the Russian probe? If not, you need a different thrust vector. Also Curiosity is actually going to Mars, whereas the Russian mission is (was) to Phobos.

      SImilarly, perhaps it could be boosted to a higher orbit and hibernate for a couple of years, but again it would then need a different thrust vector, and perhaps would not have enough fuel on board to do that.

    3. Daniel Evans

      Phobos-Grunt was intended to land on Phobos and then launch back to Earth again - so it needs to carry enough fuel to wander all the way back to Earth again. Curiosity is only going one way, so needs half as much fuel (for argument's sake, I doubt the planned routes to and from Phobos are identical) - so NASA can afford to go on the slightly more "expensive" route by making their fuel tanks a little bit bigger.

      This wiki article gives a fairly good overview of how much "Delta-v" is used for certain transfers:

      Interestingly, according to that page, orbit-keeping is fairly cheap (25-100m/s a year) versus the minimum 12,400m/s to Phobos and back. Assuming a couple of percent spare fuel on board, it might actually be possible to wait til the next window, on a fuel basis alone.

      1. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart

        The most efficient, i.e. minimum-energy Hohmann transfer orbit launch windows for Mars occur about every 780 days and are open for about a month. The closer you are to the ideal launch date the less energy (fuel) you require and the biggest supplier of that energy is the launch vehicle. So although the NASA launch is after the Grunt launch the launch vehicles are different and this may be a factor.

        Phobos-Grunt was launched from Baikonur at a latitude of 46 degrees whereas the 'merkin launch is from Cape Canaveral at a latitude of 28 digress, which confers an advantage on launches from Cape Canaveral as it is nearer to the equator and gets a bigger assist from the spin of the earth enabling a launch from Cape Canaveral to either achieve a bigger range of orbits or to launch a heavier satellite.

  8. Blofeld's Cat

    Ring ring >click< ...

    "Thank you for calling the Phobos-Grunt probe. Your call is important to us. We now have four options for you:

    To go to Mars press 1 ... to go to the Moon press 2 ... to de-orbit press 3 ... to hear a duck quack please press 9."

    It's got the Haynes "Interplanetary probes" manual in a pocket.

  9. Scott Wichall

    I just did a big grunt if that helps?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Transcript of communication

    "Is that the European Space Agency? I am a Russian space probe and I would like to apply for political asylum"

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "probe finally answers calls"

    "I'm a friend of Sarah Connor, I'll be back"


  12. CowardlyAndrew

    It is all a conspiracy so they can send supplies to the moon base team who are running short on loo paper.

    1. BristolBachelor Gold badge

      But isn't that a long detour just to get to a soundstage in arizona ?

  13. JeffyPooh

    Being Russian...

    The Mars Probe was probably near-lethally drunk at launch and is only now just starting to wake up.

    Stereotype? Yes, of course. True? Often...

  14. Tom 7

    Bomb#20: You are false data.

    Therefore I shall ignore you.

    1. laird cummings

      "Let there be light."

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This whole fiasco reminds me of the story of the Russian's when they sent a probe up to the moon I think it was. It landed and immediately lost contact, all the techies knew someone was going to get sent off to the Gulags for the severe cock-up. One of the techs said, "I think we've landed in something!" to which the manager in charge said, "Yes, the shit!".

  16. asterix

    Probe alive?

    not really, the NoTW hacked its phone.

  17. Dom 3

    10th and final reboot finally completed.

    Launched on the second Tuesday of the month... also an MS patch Tuesday. All perfectly obvious now.

    1. Ammaross Danan


      "this is the first signal Earth has received from the probe since it launched on November 9"

      Perhaps it was just running Windows and finally finished booting on the Atom processor they sent up in it.

      Knew I should have put it on an SSD....

  18. D@v3

    outside interferance

    Maybe all that time it was out of contact, it was being 'interfered' with by some 4th (or maybe even 5th or 6th) party. Now that they are finished with it, it has popped back, ready for instructions it can ignore, before heading back to earth to DESTROY ALL HUMANS

    1. MrCheese


      The merkins did launch that unmanned shuttle not long ago, anyone got still got eyes on it?

  19. Anonymous Coward

    Go for broke!!

    I wonder if there is an off chance that this probe can be repurposed to go as far as Jupiter to get a sample of some sort from Europa.

    It seems that sending the probe to the Moon is probably going to result in what in the post-Apollo era would be an unremarkable core sample. Landing on the interesting parts of the moon would probably take a lot more mission planning than the Russians have time for and maybe a differently designed lander that is obviously not possible at this time.

    I'd rather take a small chance at getting something back that could be really enlightening, rather than get another sample of lunar basalt or brecchia.

  20. Mips

    If it is ALIVE...

    .. It must be Flash Gordon. Ta Dah.. Saviour of the Universe.

    I am waiting for the Brian Blessed voice over.

  21. Ray 8


    14 days is enough time for the yanks to launch their muini shuttle to make some modifications

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