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Russia fails to revive stranded Mars probe


An artist's concept of the Phobos-Grunt spacecraft nearing the Martian moon Phobos. Photo: Roscosmos.

MOSCOW (AFP): Increasingly gloomy Russian scientists failed in repeated attempts to give a vital boost to a pioneering Mars probe that got stuck in a low Earth orbit and now threatens to crash within days.

The unmanned Phobos-Grunt spacecraft lost its course to the Red Planet and its fabled moon Phobos -- a mysterious rock whose name means "fear" in Greek -- after blasting off from Russia's space centre in Kazakhstan.

The setback extended an unprecedented year-long streak of Russian space mishaps and dimmed the once-vaunted programme's hopes of sending a manned mission to Mars some time in the next 25 years.

Jittery scientists went into the mission conceding that it was fraught with risks because Russia had not done anything successful in interplanetary travel since a Soviet-era mission to Venus and Halley's Comet in 1986.

The probe got stuck after its thrusters failed to fire once the craft had reached its initial orbit. But space agency Roscosmos only received the news through outside sources because it had no radar in South America, above which the craft was at the time.

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