Russian spaceship crashes in Pacific

Posted by Emma Woollacott

The failed Mars probe that was left spinning out of control when contact was lost shortly after takeoff, has crashed safely to Earth in the southern Pacific.

The Phobos-Grunt spacecraft came down yesterday about seven or eight hundred miles west of Chile around 12.45pm ET. It was one of the largest manmade objects ever to crash back to Earth. Some reports say debris fell over a large area, including Brazil.

Because control over the spaceship had been lost, it had been impossible to predict with any accuracy where it might fall. The several agencies tracking the ship had warned that it could come down anywhere between 51.4 degrees north or south of the equator.

It's not known how much of the probe actually made it to Earth, although Roscosmos suggests that it probably amounted to around 25 pieces, weighing a total of 400 pounds.

Following the crash, there is to be an investigation into the failure of the mission.

"I am taking the investigation into the reasons for the Phobos-Grunt failure under personal control," Russia’s new deputy prime minister Dmitry Rogozin told Russian state news agency Ria Novosti.

There have been suggestions within Russia that the failure was caused by deliverate sabotage, with the head of Russia's space agency Roscosmos suggesting that it had been shot down. One Russian ex-general  suggested that a US radio antenna in Alaska could have been used to interfere with communications and throw it off course.

The aim of the mission had been to capture samples of Martian soil for analysis. But while the launch was successful, the engine meant ot  boost it out of orbit and onwards to Mars failed to fire, and communication was lost.