MOSCOW, November 24 (Itar-Tass) —— If attempts to establish control of the automatic inter-planetary probe Phobos-Grunt end in failure, its charred debris may hit the Earth’s surface sometime in January-February 2012.
As the Russian space troops’ spokesman, Colonel Alexei Zolotukhin, told Itar-Tass, specialists at the Air and Space Defense control center are monitoring all changes in the parameters of the Phobos-Grunt’s orbit.
“As at November 24 the probe is in a near-earth orbit having the following parameters: period – 89.75 minutes, inclination – 51.4 degrees, apogee altitude – 319 kilometers, and perigee altitude – 205 kilometers,” he said.
“The space control center regularly receives full and authentic information from specialized radio-technical, optoelectronic, and laser-optical means of the Russian system of space monitoring. Its analysis, in case the probe goes off its orbit, will make it possible to make preliminary forecasts and identify likely dates and areas where the debris that have unburned in the thick layers of the atmosphere may fall,” Zolotukhin said. “According to the data available on November 24 the fall of the probe’s fragments may be expected in January-February 2012.
“The exact date when this may happen may change depending on the external effects on the probe,” he said.