Debris from Doomed Russian Spacecraft Lands in Pacific Ocean

Posted January 15th, 2012 at 3:55 pm (UTC-5)
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Debris from a Russian space probe that was intended to travel to a moon of Mars has apparently fallen into the Pacific Ocean off the southern coast of Chile.

Russia's space agency, Roscosmos, had reported that the unmanned 14-ton Phobos-Grunt would enter the Earth's atmosphere on Sunday but that the exact time and location were unknown.

Roscosmos said that only small fragments of the spacecraft weighing about 200 kilograms would survive re-entry and that some 11 tons of unused toxic rocket fuel on board would burn up.

News of the spacecraft's fragments crashing into the ocean come from the Russian military. The space agency has yet to comment. There had been earlier fears of the debris possibly landing in South American territory.

The satellite was launched November 9. But it got stuck in Earth orbit and has been losing altitude since then.

The failure of the $165 million mission, which was designed to collect soil samples from the Martian moon Phobos, is among a series of recent setbacks for Russia's space program five decades after cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin's pioneering space flight.

Last August, an unmanned supply ship bound for the International Space Station crashed in Siberia.