The Phobos Grunt was supposed to have been a curse-breaker. The Russians have had a hard time sending probes to Mars since, oh, 1960. Everyone they’ve sent up has gone wrong in some for or fashion. Nineteen of them in total over the past five decades.
But Phobos Grunt was going to be different. It was going to work.
The Russians were going to be the first to put a probe onto a Martian moon, and then they were going to bring part of it home with samples for analysis. It was going to be the biggest Martian endeavor since the Spirit and Opportunity rovers. It was going to break their curse and put them back on the bleeding edge of space exploration.
Notice how I’m talking about all of this in past tense? Was? Were? Yeah, there’s a reason for that.
See the area with the blue on that map above? If you live within any of those lines you might want to take care this Sunday when the Phobos Grunt comes burning back down through the atmosphere at hypersonic speeds. Four hundred plus pounds of the thing are expected to survive reentry, and while the Earth is mostly water, they can’t guarantee it won’t come down on your head.
Just what happened to the great Russian hope? No one’s really sure. The Phobos Grunt hit Earth orbit in November and then sort of stalled out and went dead. They weren’t able to stir the probe back to life, and the orbit’s been decaying ever since. I’m just glad it didn’t hit anything while it was up there. We don’t need any more debris up there.
So this Sunday, keep your eyes up and your head down. Michael Bay doesn’t need any reason to make an Armageddon 2.