back to article Phobos-Grunt 'crippled by US aurora station', 'is a bio-weapon'

"As to Mars - it is a planet that does not like earthlings. Only 30 per cent of Soviet-Russian launches to Mars were successful, the Americans have had 50 per cent success, while all attempts by Japan and Europe have failed so far" - Vladimir Popovkin, head of Russian space agency Roscosmos. NASA's Mars rover Curiosity may have …


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  1. Annihilator


    What the holy hell is this article doing under "Science"??? Suggest moving it to a new category called "whackjobs"

  2. Michael 36
    Black Helicopters

    Conspiracy theory #4

    The spacecraft is a complex bag of bits that doesn't work properly.

  3. Oliver Mayes

    Personally, I think we're all in a 'Truman Show'-esque experiment where Mars and everything else further out aren't really there at all. It's just a giant spherical rear-screen projector. All of the previous missions to Mars had either been rigged by the overseers to return false information, or were sabotaged to discourage us from going there ourselves. Wouldn't want up puncturing the screen would they?

    This would also explain why we can't see any dark matter out there, you can't rear-project black onto the screen.

    1. Daniel Evans

      Asimov (I think, anyway) wrote a short story on that - a set of astronauts are sent out to the moon, and upon getting round to the dark side, find it's made of wooden scaffolding and paper (one of them having spent a fair bit of the mission saying "wouldn't it be weird if it was all just made to fool us..."). Upon said crew member getting a little "worked up", they are amazed to find ground crew opening up the hatch - discovering it was all a psychological experiment, they never actually left the Earth, and they weren't meant to last long enough to get round the back of the moon...

  4. Tchou


    the best you can hope for is that the minor of two evils if the funny one.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Someone was reading Dilbert this weekend, weren't they?

      1. Tchou
  5. Andy 70

    wot a caaant

    medvedevedev, punish scientists pushing the outer edges of space exploration? guys who manage to knock something together using nothing more than some runner bean canes and bailing twine?

    i've seen more complex bits of pipe in a plumbers offcuts box than go into the russian space program. Roscosomos, sponsered by Wicks builders merchants.

    way to inspire! well done. if that is the case, then i predict all future sciencey projects will be measured against the following criteria.

    explore space? no.

    cure cancer? no.

    anything for the betterment of mankind? no.

    write fart app? yes!

    1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      Medvededv's response ...

      ... does seem somewhat disproportionate. Just because he says he doesn't want a Stalinist solution doesn't mean that he isn't proposing one.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I for one...

    ...welcome our zany, trolling, conspiracy-mongering asshat internet overlords.

  7. ant 2
    Black Helicopters

    what, not the chinese?

    I'm surprised nobody's pinned it on them yet, they seem to cop the blame for pretty much every other unexplained spacey/ITey shenanigan.

    Hey, they even have a payload on this baby, maybe it's actually an ApocalypsoBomb in disguise?

    1. Ross 7

      "maybe it's actually an ApocalypsoBomb in disguise?"

      With a tangy orange flavour? Mmmmm....

    2. zen1

      Don't ya mean


  8. Xris M

    Does this mean that...

    Using my powers of deduction it seems the Russians are intent on wiping out the population of Cardiff with some sort of mutated HIV bio weapon.

    Oh well.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Maybe it's nuclear in nature

    By golly the Galactic Ghoul looks like Homer Simpson.

  10. metalrhubarb

    So, it's not going to level Cardiff? :(

  11. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    Who let the loon out? (HOU! HOUHOU!)

    Okay, so somewhat earlier featured heavy-to-digest fare about how comet Elenin is "behaving oddly" and clearly some sort INTERPLANETARY CRAFT intent on RENDEZVOUS (possibly with the ultimate goal of CAUSING DISASTER). I'm not saying is shite, actually it often is saying things that are political 3rd rails to "western media pundits" but like El Reg, they may let the loon out. HAARP? HAR HAR!

    Apart from that, this looks just like the Beagle fuckup. I suggest looking into correct project, configuration and build management (also financing, hiring practices, and correct application of the better-faster-cheaper-choose-at-most-two mantra).

    This will probably lead to greater success than threatening unnamed individuals with a visit by SMERSH. No need to keep up the hardcore.

  12. Alex-TheManfromUncle

    "It's a Trap!" - Admiral Akbar

    "They told me they fixed it... It's not my fault!"

    That is all.

  13. Graham Marsden

    And slowly...

    ... and surely, they drew their plans against us!

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    The man on the grassy knoll.

  15. AlexH

    Seriously disappointed/alarmed by Medvedev's response to this - whatever happened to waiting to see what happened and standing behind your team? Guess that's not his management style.

    In an entirely connected note, I remember reading a throwaway comment somewhere about the pay levels for Russians working in aerospace. Basically, the claim was that after getting educated to post-doctorate levels and joining the industry, one could look forward to earning rather less than someone working in a mobile phone shop... Can anyone with a bit of knowledge here comment?

    1. Phalamir

      My favorite point is that he goes out of his way to say he won't treat them as bad as Stalin would. "I will never give a man 100 lashes", with an unspoken "though maybe 99 lashes on 6-7 occasions - but never 100!" When you feel it necessary to bring up the fact you won't pull a Stalin, you have magnificiently telegraphed that you still plan to commit genocide on the scientists' ethic group.

    2. mky

      optional is a lie!

      I work in the Aerospace/Aviation industry. It's pretty common knowledge that designing an aircraft, requires a college degree, to build, or repair one, only requires a G.E.D.

    3. gafisher

      "[S]tanding behind your team" has an entirely different meaning when you're thinking in terms of draught animals.

    4. MacGyver
      IT Angle

      It's simple..

      Just figure out what went wrong by retrieving it, and bringing it back down in the Space Shuttle, oh wait, never-mind.

      I guess we'll just have to live with; "Computer, broken!"

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Meh. A billion watt focussed on a point the size of a football field will mess the electronics up. Perhaps its a message?

  17. Chris Miller

    "solar panels were acting like wings"

    Is that possible? I'd have thought that any interaction with the atmosphere could only result in the craft going lower, with drag inevitably being higher than any lift being generated. But what do I know?!

    1. John Gamble

      Re: "solar panels were acting like wings"

      I suspect that they're referring to a solar sail effect, not interaction with the Earth's atmosphere, which would indeed drag down the spacecraft.

      1. Chris Miller

        Fair point, but I'd have thought any such effect would be minuscule and tend to cancel out as the satellite orbits. I've not seen any proposals to break out of earth orbit using solar sails (which would be vastly bigger than any solar panel array). You get your spacecraft to escape velocity first then deploy the sails.

        1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

          @Chris Miller

          "I've not seen any proposals to break out of earth orbit using solar sails (which would be vastly bigger than any solar panel array). You get your spacecraft to escape velocity first then deploy the sails."

          True, but maybe there is a genuine unknown effect going on here. At least, I hope there is, for the Russian scientists' sake ...

  18. Michael H.F. Wilkinson

    More plausible theory:

    The shipboard computer of Phobos-Grunt has the all new GPP feature (genuine people personality) and is offended about being given such a silly name, and is moping in orbit. Meanwhile the telemetry system is angry about what the mission control computer said about its software, and is no longer on speaking terms with mission control. Mission control is offended that Phobos-Grunt did want to talk to the Aussies, but not to mother Russia. None want to work before someone else has apologised.

    The lesson we learn from this is that the last thing you want is computers with human-like intelligence.

  19. John Gamble

    Great Galactic Ghoul

    Hmm, when I first read of the GGG in the '70s, it was named the Great Galactic Ghost. I wonder what caused the shift in nomenclature.

    1. Ty Cobb

      Before that it was Space Ghost

  20. Phil Endecott


    > "I am not suggesting putting them up against the wall like under Josef

    > Vissarionovich (Stalin), but seriously punish either financially or, if the

    > fault is obvious, it could be a disciplinary or even criminal punishment,"

    If I were a Russian space scientist, I might now consider packing a suitcase and getting on the next plane to Pasadena. Do you think that quote would be enough to get you asylum on the grounds of well-founded fear of persecution?

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Roscosmos better check their facts

    "Only 30 per cent of Soviet-Russian launches to Mars were successful, the Americans have had 50 per cent success, while all attempts by Japan and Europe have failed so far"

    Whether the Soviet/Russian success rate is even that high must be debatable.

    Mars 1M A and B - trapped in Earth orbit.

    Mars 1962A and B exploded during launch,

    Mars 1 died in interplanetary space (but set a communications distance record).

    Zond 1964A failed on launch.

    Zond 2 died in interplanetary space.

    Mars 1969A, Mars 1969B and Kosmos 419 all failed on launch.

    Mars 2 and 3 both orbiters achieved their objective. Mars 2's lander crashed, Mars 3's landed and transmitted data for 15 seconds - the data is probably corrupt.

    Mars 4 failed to make Martian orbit and flew by the planet,

    Mars 5 a major success achieving orbit but failed in 9 days.

    Mars 6 reached Mars but failed during the landing.

    Mars 7 ejected the lander prematurely and missed the planet.

    Fobos 1 died in interplanetary space.

    Fobos 2 entered orbit, returned some imagery and was then commanded to turn away from the Earth - oops! Lander was not deployed.

    Mars 96 failed on launch.

    Fobos-Grunt failed to leave Earth orbit.

    Meanwhile, Europe has put a very successful orbiter around Mars. If they'd like to check their receipts they'll see it was fired there by a Roscosmos Soyuz-Fregat. The Beagle 2 lander failed during descent to the Martian surface.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Meanwhile, Europe has put a very successful orbiter around Mars". Exactly. Beagle was anyway a sort of secondary mission, and a first attempt by Europe, and the Mars Express orbiter works very well. Does this lack of knowledge tell something about the quality of the Russian team?

  22. zapperz


    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Can't be that poor as Rus Engines have kicked Curiosity on the way. It seems to depend.

    2. Andus McCoatover



      1. mky


        Now that's a hobby!

        1. Olafthemighty


          Apparently it can be a breach of the peace too :o(

    3. rrevolverr

      Awesome chopper



  23. Me3

    IT'S 2012

    So this thing falls into the deep ocean - ferments for a year and POW!!! It's the super virus that starts the Zombie Apocalypse!!!!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Oh no, not again."

  24. Darryl

    Wow, HAARP can cause earthquakes and control people's minds... and now it can take over Russian spacecraft? What's next? If we're lucky, it will cancel Glee.

    And AC above was right... That's no galactic space monster thing, that's Homer Simpson.

    1. mky

      and who is...

      to say Homer isn't a galactic space monster thing?

  25. GBE

    Unintentional sabotage?

    Huh? Sabotage is defined as a deliberate, intentional act. There's no such thing as "unintentional sabotage". I think the word you're looking for is "accident" or "screw-up"...

  26. Local Group

    Sword of Phobos-Grunt

    Very glad to see this. I'd been thinking that this was intended by the Russians since the 3rd or 4th day.

    Why did the Russians do it? Elementary, my dear Watson.

    The Russians, who are the builders of the Iranian reactor at Bushehr, and who could time the last stages of the the Iranian project to coincide with the window of travel to to Mars, are very aware of Israel's threat to that program. Remember Iraq in 1981 and Syria in 2007.

    So up goes Phobos-Grunt, and who really know what it contains?

    When it could not get out of Low Earth Orbit, it was predicted to come right down. Then it's life in LEO got extended until today it may stay up until mid-February. Soon it will be longer than that. Sometimes it hears signals sometimes it doesn't. Who knows what the Russians are capable of doing with their signals?

    Israel is most worried of all. With P-G orbiting the earth 16 times a day and never really too far away from Dimona, Ben Gurion Airport and suburban Tel Aviv, The Israelis must be having second thoughts about a sneak attack on Bushehr.

    Especially, if Putin warned them in private about doing so.

    Tom Clancy, phone home.

    1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      Wow, Local Group ...

      ... that is some imagination! Have you published anything, and if so, where can I buy it?

      1. Local Group

        There's more where that came from.

        I thankee, sir.

        "The wish is father to the conspiracy theory."


  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I can see it now

    post mission debriefing Inside Russian "conference" (interrogation) room:

    Several large man with cattle prods, someone screams " for the last time - who's job was it to install the fresh batteries!"

    Fade with sound of many people screaming in pain and saying "NOT MINE".

    1. wim


      well who's job was it to replace the batteries in the cattle prods ?

      Let's question that person with the aid of cattle prods

      Repeat until you have attained the efficiency of any large governmental organization.

  28. Lars Silver badge
    IT Angle

    So much for the difference between

    Stalin and Medevev then.

    Surprised, I do not know.

    For the IT angle, so many IT projects fail because some "pointy haired boss" decides everything is ready when I say so.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    gruntlings rule

    OK, I vote Phobos-Grunt as the coolest space probe name ever ..

  30. Stewart Stevens

    Saccharomyces Cerevisiae = Yeast

    Just in case anyone didn't know saccharomyces cerevisiae = yeast. The russians are obviously trying to kill us with a yeast infection directed from space. Either that or they're trying to brew beer up there.

    I think this "conspiracy theory" doesn't even make good satire.

  31. Anonymous Coward

    So the mission to Mars...

    Not with a bang, but with a grunt! :)

    /snare drum

    Thank you!! I'm here all week!!

    1. Grease Monkey Silver badge

      The name of the probe makes me laugh anyway and your post made me laugh even more.

      Back when I was a nipper we used to refer to the straining noises emenating from the toilet as grunts. As in "Where's dad?" "He's upstairs having a grunt." So in our house "a grunt" became slang for "a shit". Now re-read your post from my (rather unique) POV.

  32. Rambo 1

    Yaponchik did it. Just ask Frank Black. He knows...

  33. Herby

    Conspiracy theory #5

    They used a pirated version of Windows, and it needed to get the activation key. It took a while to get it sent up after they found (it is Russia after all) a legit license key.

  34. andy 45

    Haarp /is/ a very odd thing.

    The Americans are messing with our ionosphere and refuse to tell anybody about it?!

    Forget conspiracy theories, I think the rest of the world has the right to know what experiments they're subjecting us all to.

  35. phuzz Silver badge

    Um, aren't the Russians (and everyone else involved) goign to get the insurance payout on the craft? In which case they can just build a new one, and do it properly this time.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Bloody insurance...

      Oh great, so next time I need to insure a space probe I am gonna get hammered because of the bloody russians...

  36. Potts

    It's got ME!

    Silly conspiracy theories! The only logical explanation is that the Russians are still using their stocks of Windows ME...

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Simple answer...

    It was an insurance job

  38. mmm mmm

    It's more likely to be a martian ghoul than any hf earthquake-causing activity though there's deffo some sort of energy at work here.

    1. Grease Monkey Silver badge

      "there's deffo some sort of energy at work here."

      What evidence do you have to support that? Maybe the bloody thing just broke. It happens.

  39. Grease Monkey Silver badge

    "But those of a suspicious mindset think the project aims to manipulate the ionosphere in order to cause massive disasters."

    I love the idea that you could manipulate the ionosphere to cause an earthquake. That's stretching things even for the average conspiracy theorist.

    "the powerful electromagnetic radiation of those sites may have affected the control system of the interplanetary probe".

    But somehow not the countless other craft that pass over the array? Even more so it appears from what I have read that the Russians are saying the systems are communicating normally, but for some reason they haven't yet worked out the rockets didn't fire. So he's now claiming that HAARP can be targetted so accurately that it can take out a tiny little bit of a control system without affecting other parts of the craft? Like, wow!

    However the youtube video makes even those leaps of faith look mild by comparison. Never mind the three possible theories. I love the fact that the commentator suggests that "some of these bacteria are linked to anthrax, and others to cancer, AIDS and Crohn's disease" without offering any evidence for this or indeed how these bacteria are linked to these diseases. Certainly AIDS is not caused by bacteria so quite how these bacteria could be "linked to" AIDS is beyond me.

    Conspiracy theorists need to learn that people would take them more seriously if they talked something approaching sense.

  40. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

    Occam's Razor

    Maybe it was just holed by a micrometeorite / space debris, causing the engines to not fire, and the craft to vent fuel, resulting in a small thrust raising its orbit?

  41. Hooch181

    While entertaining...

    I have to come down on the "it's just broke" crowd. It happens!

  42. Me3

    Nothing to see here

    Just keep moving....

  43. YetAnotherBob

    So How Do The Conspirists React To The News That

    So, how do the conspiracy theorists react to the news that the bacteria in the container and the container were provided by the US Space Society, a non profit group of advocates that want to see America colonize Mars, and also want to invite the Russians and Chinese along?

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