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ESA to resume attempts to contact Russia's failed Mars probe

RIA Novosti

04:50 13/12/2011 MOSCOW, December 13 (RIA Novosti) - A ESA station will make two more attempts to contact Russia's troubled Phobos-Grunt spacecraft on Tuesday, the head of the ESA office in Moscow said.

The attempts will be performed by European Space Agency's 15-meter antenna in Maspalomas, a station in the southern part of the Canary Islands' Gran Canaria.

"We will make two more attempts on Tuesday on a request from the Russian side," Rene Pichel said.

Phobos-Grunt, launched on November 9, was designed to bring back rock and soil samples from the Martian moon Phobos. However, it has been stuck in a so-called support orbit since its engines failed to put it on course for the Red Planet. It is estimated to fall back to Earth on January 9.

The head of Russia's Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), Vladimir Popovkin, previously said the probe would break up during reentry into the atmosphere and none of the fragments were likely to reach the Earth.

That includes the spacecraft's 7.5 tons of fuel, which are stored in aluminum tanks that are bound to explode upon the reentry.

Space industry sources earlier said Russian specialists are trying to give the spacecraft a command to turn on its engines in order to postpone the reentry.

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