back to article Rogue Russian Mars probe communicates - but in gibberish

The European Space Agency managed to get telemetry data from lost Martian probe Phobos-Grunt last night, but hasn’t been able to decode the messages. The ESA made three attempts at communication with the stranded spacecraft overnight, but just one of the tries was successful, Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reported. …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Anonymous John

    I've seen one Russian report that it could still get to Phobos if it leaves Earth orbit by the end of the month.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Maybe it could still get to Phobos ...

      but could it get back again? And how useful would it be if it couldn't?

    2. Vulch

      It can still get to Mars, the NASA rover leaves this weekend on a similar trajectory, but it's no longer possible to do a rendevous with Phobos.

  2. Alister

    probe communicates - but in gibberish

    See, It's not human, it's ALIEN!!

    Where's the universal translator?

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      In Putin's Russia, Space Probe contacts YOU!

      1. John 62
        Big Brother

        In Putin's Russia...

        space probe you!

  3. Steven Roper

    E.T. Phone Home!

    Sounds to me like the telemetry transponder has been modified by a stranded alien to broadcast a 'rescue me!' message to his home planet, and that's why we can't decipher it. Maybe we can use this as a Rosetta stone so we can decipher E.T. Speak!

  4. Thomas 18

    Rumours abound

    That scientists exposed to the raw signal have started behaving erratically, twitching uncontrollably and compulsively building small sculptures out of nearby electrical components.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Rogue Russian Mars probe communicates in gibberish

    Duh, it's Russian, you have to mirror the N's and R's for it to make sense.

  6. Code Monkey


    It's known as RUSSIAN. Bloody xenophobes

    1. TeeCee Gold badge

      Probably "encrypted" using that well known technique of the ESA attempting to read ISO 8859 part 5 Cyrillic in ISO 8859 part 1.

      That would look like gibberish.

  7. Dave Murray

    If only we had some kind of spaceship that could go up to the probe and repair it in situ or retrieve it and return it to Earth. Like a kind of interstellar breakdown service. We could call it the space breakdown truck... hmm not catchy enough... we could call it the space shuttle!

    Oh wait...

    1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov


      The Russians could have build and launched the whole Phobos invasion fleet for the cost of 1 STS launch...

      1. John 62


        sadly it got killed in an hangar collapse :(

  8. ian 22

    In clear text the message is likely to be.....

    Surrender puny earthlings! Resistance is futile.

    1. Anteaus


      Russians, be aware, Phobos probes YOU!

  9. 1Rafayal
    Paris Hilton

    Maybe, since we have apparently broken the speed of light recently, its an alien culture desperately trying to make contact with us?

  10. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    I think they should

    Shoot it down before it turned out to be something like the transmission from "White Cane 7.62".

    Oh, and shoot anyone who has heard or read it too. Better be safe than sorry!

  11. JeffyPooh

    Grunt's drunk...

    The Ground Controllers should each have a(nother) litre of vodka, and then it would all make sense.

  12. Lloyd

    It becomes self-aware at 2:14 a.m. Eastern time, November 23rd

    In a panic, they try to pull the plug.

  13. rrevolverr
    Black Helicopters

    Roger, Alaska.

    Wanna be first to Mars, Houston?

  14. Dalen

    Why use encryption in the first place?

    It's not like they're transmitting top-secret military data.

    1. rrevolverr

      IN, $GRB; OUT, RubGRB

      Read open air tomorrow (-:

    2. BristolBachelor Gold badge

      Because anyone within sight of the probe when it is transmitting can see what is said. Imagine that when you go to, everything that goes up on your screen is shown to the world. Is that OK? How about when you tell the bank's computer what to do, it echos it back to you, to make sure it received it correctly? What about when you say "Pay £1000 to InflateAdate industries", and then when the bank says "enter password" and echos each character?

      Encrypting the command and control links between the ground and space assets is fairly normal practice. You don't want someone watching what goes on, and then taking your £200M satellite for a joyride!

      Alternatively, you must be from the American administration, who think software that performs encryption is a weapon of mass destruction and needs ITAR, and if you use https, you must be a terrorist.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        well actually

        Quote "Imagine that when you go to, everything that goes up on your screen is shown to the world."

        I was at an 'unnamed' UK iBank website yesterday and Ghostery showed that I was being hit by TEN tracking web-bugs as I completed setting up a standing order - stuff like my data being sent to http://***** and tribal and eight other places - I'd pretty much state that my data - who knows if it was encrypted/screen grabs - is already going worldwide I HAVE NOT GIVEN MY INFORMED CONSENT. I was using https, I don't know when the blizzard of web bugs hit me, it conceivably could have been when I did my https -> http transition at the end of the session, I wasn't experimenting just trying to do online banking.

        1. rrevolverr

          Not Too Well, Actually

          That's the lesson for everyone to learn.

    3. MrT

      Probably to stop...

      ... anyone else intercepting and releasing the findings before they do. Jodrell Bank was famous for this back in the very early days, especially with the Soviet Luna 9 mission.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Have they tried

    Turning it off and on again?

  16. JeffyPooh

    @ "Why use encryption in the first place?"

    So the Americans don't send up commands to disable the Russian Grunt spacecraft thereby making the USA more successful with its better-protected Curiosity project. The whole Space Politics thing that super-powers play.


    Oh my...

    Oh. My. God.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There is actually significant danger here

    Since the device still has fuel and is uncontrollable and could be misinterpreting commands being shot at it from earth, what if the rockets fired and it managed to point itself towards Moscow, New York, or Bejing? I think you get the picture. The thing is an uncontrollable floating space-bomb, yet all you ever hear is how they would like to control it's decent and maneuver it to land in an ocean, not how it can go nuts and plow straight down into a populated area..... So, let's talk about encryption instead... much safer discussion.

    1. Wombling_Free

      The thing is an uncontrollable floating space-bomb!!!!1111!!!one!!!

      OOOOH DANGER! We should NEVER FLY IN SPACE because it's DANGEROUS!

      Sure, it could fall down and kill a couple of kids at a pre-school picnic; unlikely, but not impossible.

      A truck driver could also have a few too many no-doz, get a bit loopy and drive his truck full of designer handbags through the same picnic; this is FAR more likely to happen than being hit by a chunk of spacecraft, so by your logic we should BAN ALL TRUCKS.

      You can also get killed by a falling housebrick, so to BE SAFE we should BAN HOUSES, and BRICKS!

      Falling trees can also kill you, so lets BAN TREES TOO!

      You get the picture.

      Life is dangerous, and you won't live forever; deal with it.

      1. BristolBachelor Gold badge

        "Life is dangerous, and you won't live forever; deal with it."

        Can I suggest leathal injection?

    2. Michael Hoffmann Silver badge


      Please tell me you're just trolling.

      If not... I blame the collapse of our educations systems. :-(

      1. BristolBachelor Gold badge

        "If not... I blame the collapse of our educations systems"

        I don't think that would be sufficient for the ramble above. I suspect that the poster was dropped on their head by their parent when they were young. From the 40th floor. 20 times. And their heart stopped for 10 minutes. And the remaining 5 brain cells could only came up with what they said above.

  18. ArielS

    How long before...

    we are told this is really due to a hack?

  19. Anonymous Coward


    there would be enough fuel to check out BOTH Earth/Moon lagrange points, not much gravity to overcome and they might find something interesting. For that matter, where's Cruithne right now?

  20. Wombling_Free

    If we assume that the spacecraft may be reanimated...

    Yikes! I hope they have shotguns on the ISS, now we have zombie spacecraft loose in orbit!

    Yes, that's mine with the blunderbus loaded with rocksalt.

  21. json

    its romulan.

  22. jubtastic1


    I think they'll spend a week or so reviewing the many possible alternate destinations, but will settle on a daring mission to the depths of the Pacific.

  23. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Move along now, nothing more to see here. IT has moved on into the Brilliance of Shadows and Shades.

    "How long before... we are told this is really due to a hack?" ....ArielS Posted Thursday 24th November 2011 21:36 GMT

    Is there any significant difference between a hack and a crack, ArielS? And if there is, would any able to exploit the significant difference, expand upon it publicly? To realise the value of the significant difference would give them a leading role in recovering programs which exhibit anomalies/variations from expected norms and/or promised goals, methinks, and thus would such intelligence remain strictly need to know and highly prized for the leverage it would offer.

  24. Stevie


    And *this* is why manned probes are good ideas and robots are idiocy of the highest kind.

    If there was someone on board they could do what's obviously needed and give the uncooperative rocket motor a thump.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I stand by my statement

    despite the wombling wack job . It is uncontrollable, and it is carrying approximately 2,000 gallons of highly flammable fuel. You just know the ground controllers are trying to make damn sure they don't send it commands that might be misinterpreted. But it is all screwed up, so how would they know exactly what to send? There are probably status/telemetry requests and action commands. Let's hope the system knows the difference. Oh, and there are no nukes on it, right? I mean, the Russians wouldn't send a small nuke into space, now would they?

    Of course they would ....

This topic is closed for new posts.

Other stories you might like