Sep 16, 2009 | 4
Russia's Phobos-Grunt probe, which had been slated to head off this year on a sample-return mission to Phobos, the larger of Mars's two moons, will not launch until at least 2011, according to the Russian Interfax news agency.
Citing "a source in Russia's space industry," the news agency reported that the Russian Federal Space Agency and the Russian Academy of Sciences would make the postponement official in the next few days. As noted in a recent feature article about the Phobos-Grunt mission on ScientificAmerican.com, the delay has been rumored for months.
As was the case with NASA's mammoth rover, the Mars Science Laboratory, pushing a mission start date back from late 2009 requires a lengthy delay. The launch window to the Red Planet and its environs, based on the relative positions of Earth and Mars, only comes about every 26 months or so.
Feb 11, 2009 | 19
A commercial satellite collided with a Russian satellite over Siberia yesterday, yielding a cloud of fragments, according to a NASA scientist tracking space debris. The collision between the commercial satellite, belonging to the American communications firm Iridium, and the Russian satellite, believed to be defunct based on its advanced age, was the first of its kind, says Nicholas Johnson, chief scientist at the NASA Orbital Debris Program at Johnson Space Center in Houston. (A spokesperson for Iridium said a statement on the incident would be released shortly.)*
"In the past almost 20 years, there have been three other accidental collisions between objects in orbit, but they've all been very minor," Johnson says. "The most debris ever produced in an event was like four debris, and this is two intact spacecraft colliding, and we have hundreds of debris out there. We don't know exactly how many yet."
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