MOSCOW, January 13 (Itar-Tass) —— The precise time and place where fragments of the Russian Phobos-Grunt interplanetary research rover may fall will become known approximately 24 hours before the rover enters dense layers of the atmosphere, the Federal Space Agency said on Friday.
The Agency is closely cooperating with the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry with the goal of the prevention and cleanup of possible consequences of the fall of Phobos-Grunt fragments over Russia. In addition, it is interacting with the Russian Foreign Ministry for the rapid notification of the UN secretary general and states on whose territories fragments may fall. The Agency is interacting with the Federal Air Transport Agency, the Defense Ministry and the Navy for ensuring the security of aircraft and vessels inside and outside of the Russian territory.
The Agency said earlier in the day that Phobos-Grunt fragments might fall over the Earth in southern areas of the Atlantic Ocean on January 15-16.
“As of now, Phobos-Grunt has an elliptical orbit with the apogee of 185.6 kilometers and the perigee of 157.8 kilometers. The projected fall window is January 15-16 with the midpoint at 8:22 p.m. Moscow time on January 15,” the Agency said.
The fragments may fall over the Atlantic Ocean, along the eastern coast of South America, at 45 degrees South 60 degrees West.
“The place and time of the fall of Phobos-Grunt fragments have been updated due to the lessened altitude of the rover’s orbit, solar activity and atmospheric conditions,” the Agency said. “A task group is constantly monitoring the de-orbiting process. It interacts with interested ministries, departments and organizations of Russia.”
From 20 to 30 rover fragments made of heat proof materials with the total weight less than 200 kilograms may hit the ground. Fuel will burn out in dense layers of the atmosphere, at the altitude of about 100 kilometers, the agency said earlier.
The rover carries a spectrometer with two gamma emission sources using cobalt 57. The Agency said that the material had a weight of less than ten micrograms and a short semi-decay period and would not present a threat of radioactive contamination.
“Judging by international statistics of many years, de-orbiting spacecraft practically fully burn in dense layers of the atmosphere and their fragments usually do not cause any harm,” the Agency said.
The rover launched on November 9, 2011, failed to set off towards Mars and stayed in a circumterrestrial orbit. The vehicle was supposed to reach Mars and spend several months in orbit to choose the best place for landing on Phobos. A landing capsule was due to separate and to reach the moon surface for collecting relic substance, which, in the opinion of scientists, might have formed planets of the solar system. The samples were to be taken to the Earth. The project cost about 5 billion rubles.