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ESA halts attempts to contact Russian Mars moon probe

RIA Novosti

21:22 02/12/2011 MOSCOW, December 2 (RIA Novosti) - The European Space Agency (ESA) said on Friday it had ended attempts to establish contact with Phobos-Grunt, Russia's failed probe to one of Mars' moons.

"In consultation and agreement with Phobos-Grunt mission controllers, ESA engineers will end ESTRACK ground station support today," the agency said. "ESA ground teams remain available to assist the Phobos-Grunt mission if indicated by any change in the situation"

The Phobos-Grunt probe was launched on November 9, but its engines failed to put it on course for the Red Planet. The craft, designed to bring back rock and soil samples from the Martian moon Phobos, is currently moving along a so-called support orbit.

According to NASA, Russia has failed in all of its 17 attempts to study the Red Planet close-up since 1960. The most recent failure before this month occurred in 1996, when Russia lost its Mars-96 orbiter during launch.

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